An awful stage set up

21 11 2015

A while ago I blogged about a perfect stage set up at a TED talk. Today I thought I’d share the complete opposite. 

If you think you recognise the (your) school let me point out I’m posting this for the benefit of a wider audience. I’ve also already made these points to the person who invited me at the school in question. There was no other space in the school that day. I understand sometimes compromises need to be made. The picture below is of one of the two successful shows I did that day. 

Trying to please I allowed second years and fifth years into the last show. Unbeknownst to me twelve seventeen year olds had also been put into the show which was set up for kids 5 years younger at the last minute as a punishment (!) they’d already been chucked out of another session (!!) so they were the least cooperative of their peers AND they’d just received a good shouting at (!!!) But it’s the room I want to comment on. 

The lights were horrible, flickering fluorescents. The room was freezing cold. The space above and around us was huge with no intimacy. We were on a flat floor so anyone three rows back couldn’t see what was happening and felt they couldn’t be seen and so could mess about. And on top of all that I had two teachers at the back heads down in their own work setting a terrible example.

But it was the noise that was incredible. 

  
Even if it was quiet you can imagine the room would have had a terrible echo. It wasn’t quiet though. There were children painting the sets for a production behind me on the stage. There were children coming in and out of an open door behind that curtain. But to top it all off on the mezzanine they had their kitchens and canteen..!

What was already going to be a tough show in a tough venue was accompanied by banging pots and pans, shouting dinner ladies and their radio tuned to a commercial station so every 10 minutes we heard the same ad break. 

We only have so much energy to give during a performance. This energy is split between 1) performing the show, 2) dealing with the audience, and 3) dealing with the venue. If you have to devote large parts of your resources to overcoming the venue’s inadequacies you inevitably lose energy you can put towards the other two. If you need to devote large parts of your remaining resources to dealing with unengaged, angry audience members as well as the venue what energy are you expected to have left to put into the show?

Very rarely, even if you’ve planned and rehearsed, shows will not go well. Whilst we leave those shows beating ourselves up, scrabbling to think of what we could have done differently, sometimes it was never meant to be. 

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