Cowan Palace: Audience Observations, Dedications, and Goodbyes

Ashley Cowan observes, dedicates, and offers a quiet goodbye.

Hi friends. I’ll be honest; this hasn’t been my easiest week. Saying goodbye to a show you’ve invested a lot of heart into has never been a simple process for me but on top of closing Book of Liz, I found out on Monday that my grandmother had passed away at the strong and sassy age of 90 years and 2 days old.

Years ago, when I showed her an article I wrote for my college newspaper about an upcoming university theatrical production had made its way to the front page feature, she smiled quietly and said how much she loved seeing the name “Cowan” in print. So I like to think, wherever she is, she may be enjoying another Cowan Palace installment.

My cast kindly allowed me to dedicate our closing show to her on Sunday after hearing she wasn’t doing very well, and while I sadly couldn’t be by her side in Connecticut, I carried her with me while doing the thing I love most here in San Francisco.

Reflecting upon our last six weeks of performing in front of various crowds and dedicating our shows to different people, I couldn’t help but wonder how many audiences followed similar trends to those we met while being a part of this production. Our run included Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings and Saturday matinees. My personal observations include the following:

Thursday: As the first audience of the week, this group tended to laugh quickly and help push the show along. Their laughter patterns were often loud and fast as if to suggest, “hey, it’s Thirsty Thursday, and we either need to get home soon or get a beer.”

Friday: After a long workweek, the Friday crowd entered with high expectations. They were tired from a stressful few days of bringing home the bacon and appeasing “the man”. They could be unforgiving and critical. And hey, how can you blame them? Once you eased them into it though; convinced them to leave their week behind and embrace the weekend; they would warm up to you until the theater was on fire. With their presence.

Saturday Morning: The coffee crowd rather than the wine lovers. We didn’t even have the hope of boozing them up real good before they entered the theater! This group was certainly one of the quieter audiences. Perhaps from partying too hard the night before, perhaps because they’re secretly vampires trying to hide from the sun. It’s hard to say. In any case, they tended to be a bit more controlled and contained.

Saturday Evening: Thank goodness this group knew how to have a drink. They often came in ready and wanting to get those tipsy giggles out. Sometimes it would take them a little longer to catch a joke but when they did, they enjoyed long and hearty laughs. Often, the shows could run just a hair longer because this was the crowd who could appreciate and encourage the idea of “milking it”.

Sunday Evening: This last audience was a real mixed bag and often surprised me. They’d catch the more obscure and random bits and then be silent at a joke that had received big laughs all week. Personally, they were one of my favorite audiences though because they kept me on my toes and often offered more immediate vocal reactions.

Has anyone else noticed an audience pattern during certain nights of the week? Those were just a few of my experiences while working on a comedic piece. And do you think knowing what to expect is ultimately a good or bad thing when it comes to live theatre? I’d love to know your thoughts.

My grandma was often a matinee viewer; and while she may have been part of a quieter crowd, her presence was always known and appreciated. And it’s for her that I’ll continue trying to get the Cowan name out into the world in whatever way I can manage; for any audience who will grant me the chance. For now, this blog will do just the trick.

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One comment on “Cowan Palace: Audience Observations, Dedications, and Goodbyes

  1. […] about peacock feathers I might have made different choices with my life.) And her post about her grandmother and goodbyes was touching and beautiful.  But my favorite post would have to be Why Being A Theatre Person […]

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