We use to say that audiences at plays were loud, we teach our kids to be quiet in the theatre… Because it is so simple, actors are the ones who speak and the audience should be the one that listens and applauds at the end.
But, it is not that simple… Actors can’t play without an audience, there’s no theatre without a public. So what happened through the centuries? When the audience became quiet? Is this right way or…?
In the late 19th century, theatre stopped being interesting for everyone. The communal exhilaration that had been going on for 2,500 years – (since the Greeks first honored Dionysus with loud songs) – became past.
Even Shakespeare three centuries earlier, had to learn to write plays by performing in taverns and in yards. His speeches had to silence peasants and heckling gentry. Maybe the reason was culmination of an aristocratic plot to rid the fun-houses of proles, maybe because of the bright stage and a darkened crowd. Anyway, audience became quiet.
People stop pelt the cast with old fruit, however bad it gets. Even if everyone don’t like the play, they would stay till the end and didn’t all leave. Because, audiences don’t believe that play it’s for them…, they are all a little cowed when goes to the theatre.
When the cinema appeared people started go to the theatre less, the cinema was cheaper, the picture had a better quality and the audience was quiet. The feeling is the same.
Some critics thought that theatres would be different with louder crowds. Collective liveliness is theatre’s most unique but neglected quality. Theatre is Dionysus’s art form, and Dionysus is all about ecstasy, about sometimes going outside yourself. There’s no ecstasy now and the days when theatre used to be a collective cathartic party are over.
Some forms of modern theatre are trying to include audiences in their plays and performances and street theatre and street arts have a purpose…
We will see what the future brings…quit audiences, or quit theatres…
Till then, wish the best to the theatre in the modern technological world… and if we want to survive, don’t forget theatre is everyone’s responsibility and joy…