Sitting at the The James House dining table one night last month, I invited the other members of our cast to break down for me, in pie chart fashion, what they enjoy about theatre. I proposed three slices: process (rehearsals, for the most part), people (both onstage and off), and performance. Their answers surprised me.
I was expecting an overwhelmingly high emphasis on performance, but not one of us ranked it any higher than 50%. My own breakdown was process: 50, people: 40, performance: 10, and those numbers haven’t changed in decades. In fact, let me state for the record something I’ve said in conversation more times than I can count: I don’t much like audiences. I like telling stories, but I don’t like telling stories to most of the people who pay to hear me tell them. I’d make a terrible street performer.
This is because the audience is like a crazy girlfriend. Not cute crazy, but certifiably hide the razor blades insane. Seductive/abusive, attentive/dismissive, brilliant/brain damaged … no way to predict from one night to the next what she’ll break or who she’ll embarrass, and who needs that? Other than us, I mean. Because without her, there’d be no us. No us and no pie.