As the new Artistic Director at Puppet Showplace Theatre lot of my job has been to get to know our performers and their work. Equally as important, I have been watching and getting to know our audiences.
Unlike in movies or television, the audience plays a huge role in live performance. A puppeteer can instantly tell whether his or her work is making an impact: are people laughing in the right places? Are they engaging with the puppet when it asks questions? Do they “ooo” and “aaah” when something cool and unexpected appears?
Before coming to PST it had been a while since I worked with audiences primarily composed of children, and I had forgotten how amazing it is to perform for them. Children are incredibly honest audience members. If they are bored, they will tell you. If they are having a great time, they will laugh and cheer. If they think a puppet character has done something wrong, they will cry out for justice. It’s incredible to watch how our puppeteers harness children’s attention and engage their emotions in such a pure and unfettered way. If only all theater could be like this!