Pick me! Pick me!

I was just alerted to the below video from the popular TV comedy Family Guy. While I am all for incorporating theatre references (albeit in a mocking way) into popular culture, but I think that the creators of Family Guy have got it wrong.

I have never really been a fan of Family Guy, and I know I really shouldn’t, but I LOVE this parody. But while it may be very funny, it is really quite out-dated. Of all the major shows that have launched on Broadway, West End or around the world in the last decade I can only think of one that actually uses the aisles – The Lion King. (The bad guy gaff is quite true though!)

In my opinion we are slowly moving towards a different kind of audience interaction. An audience interaction that involves bringing ordinary people onto the stage rather than actors off the stage.

Audience interaction is very important in a comedic musical or play as the material often relies on the actor’s ability to break the fourth wall and play off members of the audience (whether they have been planted or not). And when the audience members haven’t been planted, this kind of interaction creates a greater experience for the patron in one of two ways.

Firstly, the patron who was chosen feels like part of the production for the minute or two they are used which makes them more likely to go around and encourage their friends to go and see the show. Especially when they show off about their experience they are automatically spreading the work about the show and the amount of enjoyment they received from going to the production.

The second style of audience interaction impacts a larger segment of the audience and that is the desire to be part of the production. Now this one happens to me quite a lot when I go and see a show that has audience interaction.

If I was to go and see the show again, can you guess where I would be looking to buy my seat?

In exactly the same area that they used for the audience interaction. Guessed it, didn’t you!

That desire to be selected out of the audience makes me more likely to see the show again, and if you get a buzz from getting on a stage I imagine you would be looking to compete with me to get that ticket.

For example, last night I went to One Man, Two Guvnors which involved a significant amount of on stage audience participation. If I was to go again, I would be getting a ticket in the Stalls on the left side of the theatre in the first three rows. And if I get bored and am looking for another show that will definitely provide me with an incentive to see it again. Same goes for Spamalot. And if I was to see that again I would be sitting in B15 (if you have seen it you will know why!).

However, while that appeals to those of us who are obsessed with theatre, the concept can be applied on a broader scale. Once does a very good job with this concept. The musical is set in a bar and before the show people are welcome to walk up on stage and place their pre-orders for interval drinks. When Hair toured to San Francisco, they also opened up the stage for audience members, but this time they did it after the show. They started up some more music and, in true hippy style, had a dance party.

db66fe21edf9623d_widgets_link_1_5994.previewThese little things all add value to the theatre going experience and while they may not encourage repeat purchase, they certainly encourage a bit of free promotion from the large clientele each night!

Do you think these extra bits of audience participation are enough to encourage your audience to mention the show to their friends? Let me know in the comments section below.