Gus Cuddy | Essays:

The audience matters

11 November 2018

I’ve noticed that there is a certain trend for some directors to “not care” about the audience. I understand where the impulse comes from, but I think this is a big mistake.

For one, audiences are very smart.

If an audience is bored during the show, it’s probably not their fault. It’s probably because the show is boring.

Could you put this in front of 16-year-old you and have them be totally engaged and enjoy it? Or would they feel secretly repressed shame for not understanding what’s going on, feeling it’s their own fault?

There is, of course, a balance to be struck. You don’t want to condescend, or “dumb down”—but we also mustn’t blatantly disregard what an audience would feel, how they won’t be able to fully see or understand this part, or how this part will simply be a waste of their time.

It’s an exceptional thing that an audience is giving you: their attention, for 90 minutes or so. And yet how many productions abuse this privilege? We should make good use of their attention by actually making something they will enjoy, because the audience matters. A lot.