Support from the crowd lifts those on the stageNov 10, 2021 12:38PM ● By Louise R. Shaw
I have to admit, when we first pulled into the theater complex and saw school buses parked in all directions, I had a bit of an “oh no” feeling.
We were attending a matinee at the Utah Shakespeare Festival on Southern Utah University’s campus. It was something we had done for years and years, though usually in the summer. Now it was late fall. School was in session.
As much as I appreciate both the theater and the schools, I wasn’t sure how they would work together at the same time.
I’ve been a student. I’ve been a student on a field trip. I’ve been a parent chaperoning students on field trips. And I wanted my theater experience to be different than those experiences had been.
I was wrong to worry.
Our seats were in the middle of a row about 10 rows from the stage.
As we worked our way to our seats, dodging toes and bags, I asked the students we passed what the “N” on their jackets stood for. Turns out they were from Northridge High. Once we took our seats, I asked the student on the other side of me what school he attended. Same answer. He and the teacher beside him were talking to the students in front of us, who were also from Northridge High.
I felt right at home.
These kids, and the kids from high schools around the state filling the auditorium, had earned the trip due to their involvement in theater and music programs. They were there for the festival’s annual Shakespeare Competition.
The place was electric.
When the first number got underway, there was enthusiastic applause. When the jokes and gags ensued, the audience roared. When the songs ended, the crowd clapped and cheered loudly and long. When the tap dancing commenced, they whooped and hollered and cheered some more.
At the end of the show, I spoke again with the young man at my side. He was performing in significant roles in several productions at Northridge so I know he knew what it was like to memorize lines, work with a director and fellow cast members, rehearse late into the evening, hope the sets got done in time, hope the costumes worked, hope the audience would be convinced you were the role you were playing, and then sing or talk with an accent or walk with a swagger and just put it all out there in front a judging audience. (Yes, I did high school theater too.) And he knew what it was like to stand, exhausted, after it all came together, and hear the applause from an appreciative audience you couldn’t see because of the bright lights blinding your eyes, hoping some of the cheers you heard were maybe even for you.
Turns out, this young student actor had seen the same play the week before. No doubt at a performance without an audience full of high school theater students. No doubt where the crowd laughed reservedly at each joke and clapped politely at the end of each song.
This same play, a week later, he said, was 100 times better. No doubt because the performers felt the encouragement of an enthusiastic audience and turned the gags and the songs and the dance numbers up a notch or two or 100.
The moral of this story is to go to plays when there is a statewide high school theater competition. And to not be judgmental when you see school buses.
But mostly, the moral of the story is to cheer enthusiastically whenever you can for everyone you can – it helps them turn it up a notch.