Theater Wit: Audience Design

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What is audience design?

One to two dozen people design, create and build the experience on the stage, but the stage is only 50% of a shared space. Audience Design is a new design position we have created over the last few seasons here at Theater Wit. We believe that we should start bringing the same attention and focused craft to the house as we do to the stage.

What is an audience designer?

Each of our productions now has a design position dedicated to shaping a key percentage of the house. The audience designer is given 15–20% of our available tickets to freely distribute to different groups and individuals who have specific affinities with the play. These allies can be situational (anti-gentrification groups at Clybourne Park), professional (Computer programmers at Completeness), or esthetic (Upcycle proponents for Mr. Burns). Attendees are given complimentary tickets to attend the show. Concentrating these varied voices creates new response dynamics for both performers and audience to experience for the first time every night.

How does it work?

This part is theater-geeky… The theater is a communal experience, in which we are as affected by the micro-musculature responses of those who surround us as much as by the performances. It is not a solitary communion, but a community effort that reaches toward collective understanding. We’ve all attended the theatre when the audience has been “live” —particularly engaged and responsive. Those evenings are more rewarding, because the group feedback amplifies the action of the play.

The beauty of audience design is that it doesn’t require anything except honest response from its participants. The more the people around us are invested, the greater our response. It is a core biological response to group dynamics that dates back a hundred thousand years.

By placing disparate communities into the room who wouldn’t normally be seeing the play (and certainly wouldn’t be seeing the play together), we can consciously craft the response dynamics in the room so that everyone’s experience is informed and transformed by one another.

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How can I participate?

If you are part of a group that you think might be interested in participating, write an email to our audience design department. It can be a meetup, a book group, a support group, an organization, a workplace, whatever. Describe your group’s interests and composition and we’ll look for a match up. Please include a phone number where we can reach you. Typically, we try and contact our audience design attendees 6–10 weeks before a performance. At this time, we can’t accept individual applications for participation, and audience design groups must attend as parties of 10 or more.

Contact Audience Design