From our Journal...

03 April 2015

How to engage your audience

With rehearsals for ‘The Point of No Return’ starting next week, the fact that I’ve been with BeFrank for close to two months is hard to believe. I think the case with theatre is often that it’s possible to get so caught up in all of the individual tasks—contact this potential sponsor, locate that prop, write another blog post—that we forget about the production itself until it’s upon us. It’s happening to us now, which is exciting and scary all at once. It also means that my work with Kate and Mel on some of our outreach and education material for the show is ramping up.

Putting together an Information Pack and a programme of post-show discussions is actually much more interesting than it might seem. One of the many things I love about spending time with the BeFrank team is spontaneously having candid and enlightening conversations about our subject matter, so being able to provide the necessary context and a setting for our audiences to do the same is a priority. In many ways this is the root of why we all do this kind of work, and it’s rewarding to decide just how we’re going to help shape the audience’s experience. It’s also a task not to be taken lightly.

Our challenge with the Information Pack is to contextualise the play so that audiences have the necessary background (both historically and thematically) to engage fully, without overloading them with information. This means that we need to distill all that we want to say into on the most essential bits and visuals while avoiding lengthy essays; the fortunate effect of this is that it ends up further solidifying our own idea of why this story is being told, which is always a good thing. It also means that we get to be creative with the use alternative forms of writing (interviews, timelines, etc.) and visuals.

Probably my favourite part of planning the outreach programming, however, is devising just the right combination of guest panelists for the post-show discussions. With topics ranging between themes of censorship, the worldwide effects of revolution and the role of the EU in both Ukraine and the UK, we’re examining the realities of the subject from every angle possible, and always focusing on how our audiences fit into the narrative. The fun part is thinking about how many different perspectives we can find for each individual topic so that, for instance, an artist, an academic, a journalist and an activist can all converse with one another and maybe even learn something from the experience themselves.

I’m getting very excited to continue learning along with our audiences next month, and next time you hear from me I’ll be in the rehearsal room… in the meantime, if you’re interested in engaging yourself, take a look at the post-show discussion programme here. Looking forward to hearing what you have to say!

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