Not too long ago, there was a big to-do in New York when an audience member at a performance went onto the stage right before the show started to plug his cell phone into an outlet on the set (the outlet was fake of course, a part of the set). This led to a heated conversation about the relationship between technology and art, between artist and audience. Is the theatre a place sacred from an audience’s preoccupations, or an extension of those preoccupations? The audacity of plugging in a cell phone on a set questions the sanctity of the distance between the work of artists elevated on a stage and an audience’s sense that the theatre is an extension of their world, where any electrical outlet should be fair game—especially when a charged cell phone feels like a life-and-death matter.
If you can’t plug in your cell phone or take photos to post to Instagram and live tweet during the show, what do you do? How are you, the audience, fully engaged? How is the theatre relevant right now to you and your world? Sometimes we present post-show conversations as a way to dig deeper with you around the themes of the show. Here at ArtsEmerson, we talk a lot about curatorial listening. We ask: How do we as curators hear the concerns and interests of our audience and reflect that listening in a season of work? We know that theatre is meaningful because it sparks something inside the audience’s imagination or expands a worldview. And we know that in a world where we are constantly plugged in, the theatre must be plugged in too. The theatre exists for an audience. You are the most important thing. Meow Meow is an artist whose genius springs from her understanding of the word “audience.” She is a performer who is formed by her relationship with you, her public. Notice that her show is not titled An Audience FOR Meow Meow but rather WITH Meow Meow. She is with you and you will find yourselves very quickly with her as she both captivates and includes you in every step of her show. She knows in the very depths of her creative soul that there is no singularity in theatre—no artist separate from her audience. Theatre is a communal act where our mutual preoccupations are in proximity, most often a proximity that requires at least some level of willingness to meet each other in three dimensions, our bodies together in a shared space.
Meow Meow is relying on her audience to carry her through the many travails of the show. As the tagline for the show suggests, “The show might go on.” It will only go on
because you, the audience, agree to be WITH Meow Meow from beginning to end. When you come to see Meow Meow you will understand why you are the most important thing.