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An Open Letter: Our Promise to You, the Audience.

The audience

Dear Audience,

There seems to be a little bit of a misunderstanding as to what is and isn’t expected when we get together and spend the evening sharing in the magic of face to face theatrical communication (in other words a play).

Let’s be honest, when the hottest ticket on Broadway jumps into the conversation things are getting a little out of hand - and by a little, we mean a lot - do we really have to explain that sets are designed to look real? Or be forced to restart a crucial scene because your conversation drowned out an important moment? No.

But we also shouldn’t feel compelled to take your phone away mid-performance. It’s not our place to silence or control you. After all, theatre is above all else a collaborative experience and we are paired together in the same room at the same time for a reason.

We are currently approaching what many actors consider “summer show season.” It’s the time of year where you can fill up your dance card with every type of theatre imaginable from regional summer stock theatre, to classical theatre festival’s, to Shakespeare in the Park, to fringe festivals, and yes even Classics on the Rocks own mainstage show (shameless plug: Julius Caesar runs July 14-17!). Seeing theatre is the perfect way to get out of the summer heat and spend quality time with your loved ones having fun. So whether you’re attending a show in a Broadway playhouse, school auditorium, park amphitheater, or a black box theatre, I propose we get ourselves in sync and reconnect over the remarkable symbiotic relationship between audience and performer because isn’t that what makes live theatre so special?

We want to play with you not just for you. So here is our promise to you, not only for this summer season, but for all seasons and performances from here on out…

1. We promise to not ignore you.

We know you're out there, and we truly appreciate that you’re taking time out of your day to spend it with us. We will actively engage with you. At times we are going to take you into our confidence and use you as sounding board for what our character is about to do next. We need you to be there for us to listen. Sometimes we might even make you a part of the scene – not in a crazy “I’m going to bring you up on stage and make you dance like a monkey” sort of way – but we may ask you to play the role of citizen or plebian and ask you to be our “friends, romans, and countrymen.” Since we are all in the same space together, it would be foolish to limit ourselves to addressing the few actors we can fit onstage, instead we promise to bring you into this world we are creating for you.

2. We promise to respect you, your intelligence, and not force our own opinions on you.

We will do our part to tell the story clearly but we won’t treat you like you’re in kindergarten and spell out or overtly indicate our meaning. You’re smart enough to follow the story so we’ll let you watch, listen, and experience the performance for yourself so you can take away what matters most to you.

3. We promise to not be your nanny.

You may have heard a lot about how you're supposed to behave while you're in the theatre. And while general etiquette should apply, things have gotten little extreme. It is not our job to police you. Just as we will respect you, please respect us and the effort we’re putting into out work. Hopefully we are doing our job well enough for you to be so engrossed with what's happening that you won't have time to take a selfie, or answer your phone, or talk TOO loudly. But here's the thing: theatre should be a dialogue between audience and actor. We share this story with you, and we want you to tell us how well we are doing. How? Laugh. Cry. Cringe. Don't be afraid to have an emotional reaction, any form of reaction is acceptable. Just try to stay in your seat-until the end, then go ahead, stand, jump, cheer. Hoot and holler! We love that!

4. We promise to welcome you with open arms.

Whether you’re a first timer or a theatre veteran; in the nose bleed seats or front row orchestra; you made the decision to attend the theatre. That is wonderful. And we say welcome home, you belong here.

We want you to have such an amazing time that you want to come back, and to experience other shows. Bring friends, who up until just now were just like you - interested in this beautiful thing we call theatre. Maybe they weren't entirely sure what it was, or what to expect. Now that you know, you can tell and bring others, and others will do the same so the human experience can be shared again and again.

Always yours,

William Downes

Founder & Artistic Director

Classics on the Rocks

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