When we, the audience, go to a show, we go to be entertained. If we go to see a band, we want the band to move us, we might even get a bit excited if the guitarist throws us a plectrum; if we go to a theatre show, we want to feel something – we want the piece we are watching, the live theatre piece, to engage us and reach out to us. All these things are true of burlesque and cabaret, but if we go to a burlesque or cabaret show we want something more. If the comper is asking us to join in with whoops and hollers, and get excited about the performer on stage, we want the performer on stage to reach out to us and do the same. We did not pay to look at art in an art gallery – where, yes, the art is static, it has done it’s piece in the making and engages us in a two-(sometimes 3 if a sculpture)dimensional way.
As a burlesque or cabaret audience, we are paying to be entertained, to be moved, and for the performer to step through that forth wall and meet our whoops and hollers half way…
One of the easiest ways to interact with us is to give us eye contact. It makes us feel special. And we like feeling special. It shows that you want us to watch you. If you don’t give us eye contact, we feel like voyeurs and also feel very uncomfortable. An uncomfortable audience will not be a happy audience. We also think it’s rude! Imagine if you are having a conversation with a friend. You look into each other’s eyes. In fact any conversation requires you to look into the other’s eyes. doesn’t it feel odd when someone you are talking to cannot make eye contact and is continually looking away or down. Or looking elsewhere and preening? The same thing applies on stage – as a burlesque or cabaret performer – and even a comedian, you are continuing that dialogue with the audience. Make sure you look further than just the front row, too… Some of us sit near the back, some of us might be on the sides or even on a gallery. We like it when we’re involved. Just make sure you don’t direct your eye contact at an empty chair if you are blinded by the lights! As a side note to this, you may have seen magazine images with models looking off into the middle distance or looking down, but never at the camera. Beautiful images for print, but on stage this will not translate. At all. Make eye contact. Simple.
Not Being Rooted To The Spot
Whether we, the audience, are of large scale or very small in number, we love seeing you move around, after all you’ve not got glue on your shoes,or are nailed to a certain point. You are also not a podium dancer – we did not pay for that. Being rooted to the spot and carrying out your moves in one place will only give a very small portion of the audience a show. And we’ve all paid the same money to be entertained. Entertain us all! Move around. If the stage is small re-direct your focus and bear in mind we all want to see what fabulous things you are doing. If you find it hard, make a series of mental ‘x marks the spot’ on the stage and physically move into these areas. And mark out in your rehearsal room some tape Xs so you can get used to moving into them.
Try it, it’s fun! We audience members love being involved in your acts! We love it when it’s just a point, or a move directed at us. It breaks through the barrier. We love it (even though we might cry, ‘no! no!’) when a performer heads for us and polishes our bald head with a glove or spontaneously gets one of us to pop a balloon. We even love it when you invite us onto the stage to take part in your act – if audience participation is requited. We love it when you performers talk to us, too – yes, you might think performing burlesque requires you to be silent on stage, but we love it when you speak to us during your acts. All this shows us you enjoy our company and that we are invited to watch you. But be careful who you pick – some audience members can be a bit over-eager to join in… Checking out the audience before hand is a good tip – you’ll see those of us who are relaxed about ‘participation’ and those who might be a bit too keen to have their own moment on the stage (usually the ones who keep on heckling and not knowing where the line is…)
We also love being acknowledged for appreciating you – when we are clapping, we love it when you receive our applause, both at the end of your act and at the curtain call. So please, do not rush off after your act, take that bow you’ve earned and give us a smile! Walk tall, knowing you’ve moved us!