1 June 2023

Learning to be a good audience

Early Learning
Learning to be a good audience
Learning to be a good audience
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I love going to the theatre and the movies. I love the buzz, the anticipation, the smell of the theatre and the shared experience. I am, however, saddened and disappointed and sometimes just cross at some members of the audience’s behaviour, or their lack of etiquette. I have been thinking about this a lot and what makes a good audience and why this is important. It has a lot to do with respect – one of Carey’s key values.

Importantly, this means respecting the performers and respecting the other people around you who make up the audience. Of course, there are slightly different behaviours depending on the event – clearly at a football game or a music concert one can get into the spirit and make some encouraging noise, whereas at a recital, a movie or a ballet or drama performance, one is less likely to participate in that way.

For a live event, the audience is critical – an audience listens, watches and provides the atmosphere of the event. Performers also use the energy of the audience as feedback; it motivates them and their performance with the right supportive behaviours. Sometimes, performers will ask the audience to get involved in the performance in more specific ways, too. There are also lots of ways to communicate to performers that are non-verbal and that we practice every day, such as smiling, nodding, gently tapping one’s feet in time to the music, singing along in your head, gentle laughs and appropriately timed applause.

There are a range of expectations of audience behaviour, most of which are common sense, like being patient and attentive, concentrating on the show and sitting still without jumping around and moving all the time. Also, remembering you are not in your living room and that chatting and talking is not appropriate in many performances. These days, most performances begin with a reminder about turning off mobile phones and not recording during the performance. Sadly, however, there are many people who are not able to refrain from checking their watch or phone during the performance. They become distracted and also cause a distraction for the people around them.

These are all skills that can be taught, as with all skills, and children need the opportunity to both learn and practice them. In the ELC, we are so fortunate that we have many opportunities throughout the year to be an audience. Recently some of children attended the rehearsals of the Middle School House Music festival in the Memorial Great Hall, front row seats, nonetheless. For many, this was their first exposure to being an audience. Being together a couple of weeks ago during the Literature Festival in the Junior School drama room listening to Bori Monty Prior, a First Nations storyteller, the children needed to draw on all their audience skills. Watching the Junior School Prep to Year 2 Cross Country on Cluny Green was another opportunity to be an audience of a different kind, where cheering was an important aspect, however the value of respect, staying with your group and not moving around were still important aspects.

Towards the end of this term, the ELC children along with the Prep children will have the opportunity to be an audience for the Year 7 drama performers and the plays they have written and perform specially for the children.

It is a joy to take young children to performances and see their joy and wonder and develop their love of theatre and performance.

Wendy Seidler
Director of ELC Kew


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