Audience Engagement

Content in this section centers one crucial aspect of theatremaking: the audience. How do theatremakers identify and attract the right audience for a particular work? What are the different levels of engagement, from simple spectatorship to participation? Amrita Ramanan’s 2013 series gathers thoughts from leaders in the field and is a great place to start, as are videos from Theatre Communications Group’s 2015 Audience (R)Evolution Convening.

The Latest

Transcending Theatre: My Time with Robbie McCauley
Essay
Transcending Theatre: My Time with Robbie McCauley
by Tara Brooke Watkins
20 July 2021
The Classical Theatre of the Oppressed
Essay
The Classical Theatre of the Oppressed
Adapting The Vagina Monologues in Malawi
by Fumbani Innot Phiri
13 April 2021
Meet the Hosts
Podcast
Meet the Hosts
Kunafa and Shay: Episode 1
by Marina J. Bergenstock, Nabra Nelson
31 March 2021
A woman holding a syringe and examining it.
Transcending Theatre: My Time with Robbie McCauley
Essay

Transcending Theatre: My Time with Robbie McCauley

20 July 2021

Tara Brooke Watkins reflects on the legacy of Robbie McCauley, who challenged the status quo of theatre systems, from the classroom to the rehearsal room to productions.

An image of six actors forming a semi circle around and actor standing on actors block , The actor on the block, is lifting food to their mouth with pained expression.
The Classical Theatre of the Oppressed
Essay

The Classical Theatre of the Oppressed

Adapting The Vagina Monologues in Malawi

13 April 2021

Fumbani Innot Phiri Jr. details the creative process of the production of The Vagina Monologues that took place during 16 Days of Activism in Malawi and offers his thoughts, as an audience member, on the show’s big impact.

two people kneel in front of ornate architecture, petting a black and white cat
Meet the Hosts
Podcast

Meet the Hosts

Kunafa and Shay: Episode 1

31 March 2021

In this first episode of Kunafa and Shay, meet our hosts Nabra Nelson and Marina J. Bergenstock!

Illustration of Black people tearing down barriers.
A Future Built by Us
Essay

A Future Built by Us

An Imagination Exercise with The Movement Theatre Company

25 March 2021

The Movement Theatre Company members David Mendizábal, Deadria Harrington, Eric Lockley, Taylor Reynolds, and Ryan Dobrin share their visioning for a more equitable theatre field.

an actor onstage
Adapting to Pandemic Regulations
Essay

Adapting to Pandemic Regulations

A New Way of Performance Watching for an Old Classic

4 March 2021

Merve Parla shares her experience with Netherlands-based dance company Club Guy & Roni’s recent production of Swan Lake, an interactive experience with both offline and online components.

an actor onstage
Alternate World Design During the Pandemic and Beyond
Essay

Alternate World Design During the Pandemic and Beyond

11 February 2021

Heidi Coleman and Patrick Jagoda discuss alternate reality games (ARG) as a means of motivating audiences to take action, what goes into creating ARGs, game-based improvisation, and more.

zoom screenshot
Whose America and Whose Dreams?
Essay

Whose America and Whose Dreams?

26 January 2021

Zeina Salame sits down for a conversation with Leila Buck and Tamilla Woodard to talk about their most recent creative collaboration, American Dreams, online audience interaction, and more.

a group onstage
Sometimes the Best Technology is Relationships
Essay

Sometimes the Best Technology is Relationships

A Conversation with Complex Movements

15 January 2021

In the last conversation of the Performing the Internet series, curator Kate Bergstrom sits down with three members of the Detroit-based artist-activist collective Complex Movements—Sage Crump, ill weaver, Wes Taylor—to talk about intentional engagement in a virtual world.

an actor onstage
Write the Software and Let the World Have It
Essay

Write the Software and Let the World Have It

Forty Years of Internet Performance

14 January 2021

In this article for the Performing the Internet series, Miller Puckette and Onyx Ashanti get together for a conversation about the changing landscape of multimedia technology in the arts, how technologically mediated performance practices have taken on new relevance in the post-COVID era, and more.

tamilla woodard in a green blouse seated and talking
The Work of the Imagination
Essay

The Work of the Imagination

20 October 2020

Tamilla Woodard, co–artistic director of Working Theater in New York, talks about why she makes theatre and offers several “what if” thoughts about how the field should move forward.

zoom video chat of several people
Melted Snow on Virtual Stages
Essay

Melted Snow on Virtual Stages

26 August 2020

Seattle-based Jasmine Mahmoud talks to New York–based Autumn Knight about Knight’s recent performance Our Water is Melted Snow, geography and audiences, and staging and presence across screens.

a clown nose on a laptop
Theatre, Clown, and Physical Comedy… Online?
Essay

Theatre, Clown, and Physical Comedy… Online?

17 August 2020

Charlie Peters, who has spent the early days of the pandemic thinking about and experimenting with how physical comedy can (and can’t) live online, shares what he’s learned.

an audience
Are Malawi Theatre Groups Underpricing Their Shows to Extinction?
Essay

Are Malawi Theatre Groups Underpricing Their Shows to Extinction?

10 August 2020

Isaac Mafuel shares a recent debate had amongst theatremakers in Malawi about how to best price shows, considering both that low prices are a way of coping with the circumstances of their economy and that art should claim its value.

a large group of actors onstage
Unblurred Lines
Essay

Unblurred Lines

The Role of Consent in Immersive Theatre

8 July 2020

Blair Cadden explores how immersive theatre can adopt BDSM practices—including negotiations, safewords, and aftercare—to create safer experiences for both actors and audience members.

a focused portrait of an actor
Finding a Live Audience in Virtual Theatre
Essay

Finding a Live Audience in Virtual Theatre

18 June 2020

Edward Einhorn talks about adapting his play Performance for One into an online experience.

zoom video chat of several people
Creating a Culture of Play via Zoom
Essay

Creating a Culture of Play via Zoom

15 June 2020

Lavina Jadhwani offers artists several techniques to better utilize Zoom, whether as leaders of classrooms, theatremakers part of shows, or attendees of events.

an actor onstage
Reaching One Audience Member at a Time
Essay

Reaching One Audience Member at a Time

18 May 2020

Staff members at the Huntington Theatre in Boston, Massachusetts discuss their response to their theatre’s closure due to COVID-19: calling audience members and reading them monologues over the phone.

a person controlling a theatre's light rail rope system
Rebuilding a Better Theatre Industry Post-Pandemic
Essay

Rebuilding a Better Theatre Industry Post-Pandemic

A Punch List

14 May 2020

Genevieve Beller argues that the current forced pause on society provides a rare opportunity for theatres to take stock, inventory priorities, and enact positive and lasting change, and she provides tangible steps to do so.

WELCOME TO OUR SPACE? A Town Hall on Audience Interactions
Video

WELCOME TO OUR SPACE? A Town Hall on Audience Interactions

at Aurora Theatre Company in Berkeley, California

Monday 2 March 2020
Berkeley, California

The Aurora Theatre Company presented WELCOME TO OUR SPACE? A Town Hall on Audience Interactions livestreamed on the global, commons-based peer produced HowlRound TV network at howlround.tv on Monday 2 March 2020 at 7 p.m. PST (San Francisco, UTC-8) / 9 p.m. CST (Chicago, UTC-6) / 10 p.m. EST (New York, UTC-5).

an actor swinging above stage
Slovakia Searches for Itself at the International Theatre Festival Divadelná Nitra
Essay

Slovakia Searches for Itself at the International Theatre Festival Divadelná Nitra

15 December 2019

Kirsten Bowen reflects on Slovakia’s 2019 International Theatre Festival Divadelná Nitra, which was programmed based on the theme “faces of freedom.”

a group of performers outside
Theatre for Development in Malawi
Essay

Theatre for Development in Malawi

5 November 2019

Isaac Mafuel talks about Malawi’s most prevalent form of theatre, its history, and its impact and challenges.

four actors onstage surrounding by an audience standing
Drag, Disco, and the Donkey
Essay

Drag, Disco, and the Donkey

Performed Masculinities in American Repertory Theater’s The Donkey Show

23 October 2019

James Montaño discusses The Donkey Show, cross-gendered performances vs. drag, camp as an aesthetic concept, and more.

a group of actors onstage
Audiences, Parasites, and Personal Revelations
Essay

Audiences, Parasites, and Personal Revelations

Perspectives on Criticism and Playwriting

20 October 2019

Playwright/critic Ava Wong Davies talks to critic Maddy Costa and plawright Alice Birch about who reviews are for, responses to criticism, self-censorship, and more.

shadows of legs walking
All We Need Is Audience Development?
Essay

All We Need Is Audience Development?

13 October 2019

Goran Tomka looks at what audience development is, the phenomenon of an implied or implicit audience, decolonizing institutions, and more.

an audience view of a concert
Cultural Participation Policies
Essay

Cultural Participation Policies

A Poverty of Ambition

8 October 2019

Dr. David Stevenson talks about audience diversification, confronts the dominant hierarchy of cultural activities, and looks to create space for valuing everyone’s chosen cultural experiences the same way.