Leah-Simone Bowen has worked across Canada as an improviser, playwright, director and arts administrator. She currently sits on the advisory boards for STAF, the Toronto Arts Council theatre committee and the PACT cultural diversity committee. She is originally from Spruce Grove, Alberta.
The Gift of an Audience
by Leah Simone Bowen
When I first started playwrighting it was a joy. I would act out all the characters and imagine in my head, the audience reaction. In my head, (I wrote my first play when I was 12 and it was pretty terrible) the audience reaction was a mixture of incredulity at my enormous talent and ecstasy. Generally, the pretend standing ovation lasted hours.
By the time I got into University, my fake audience was growing weary of my writing and I realized that maybe it was time to show my work to a living breathing audience. Sitting in the darkness on that first night in front of a real audience was terrifying. “Is this terrible?” “Will it make any sense?” “Oh my god! Why did I agree to do this?” were phrases that played in my head on repeat.
I had my answer as soon as the first words left the actors' mouths. Each phrase was tested and then answered by silence, laughter or tears. That’s how I care to remember it anyway. It is possible some of that writing may have been answered by snoring but nevertheless I had all the answers I was looking for.
Every audience is a gift to a playwright. They slice through boredom by walking out, tragedy by crying out and plays can meld and change from boos, sighs and silence.
No critic can litmus test your work like a whole group of people united in laughter can. Too bad audience reaction can’t show up in Google searches.
This weekend, along with 6 other playwrights, I will take the risk and fling my thoughts out to a willing audience at the Cahoots LIFT OFF! Festival. A festival intended to be for new, untested work, it is the opportunity to throw an idea into darkness and hear for better or worse if anything makes sense. I will be reading something new, really new, just an idea really. I know those old phrases like 'Is this any good?'will come hurdling out again. Luckily for me, I’m going find out.