The Need for an Audience

Hello all,

With a week and two days until the opening night of Lost & Found the apprehension has started to descend on me like a lead weight. It’s not to do with the production as it stands. As I’ve said effusively before, the cast and crew have been absolutely amazing and I couldn’t have wished for a better group of people. No, the apprehension is simply about one thing: I’m concerned that no one will come.

Firstly, I know that’s more ridiculous than anything – I know of people who are definitely coming. Or at least, they’d be very poor liars if they didn’t come. Anyway, I’m aware that it’s not a rational fear. But also, at the same time, even if all my friends and family come then we might not make a full house every night. I don’t really need reassurance on this point, either, I know it’s silly. What I found interesting about it, though, was that it really demonstrated how much as a writer you depend on your audience.

Now, I hope this is a writers’ thing and it isn’t just my need for attention driving this anxiety. But I think it’s a universal concept amongst people who write, since what’s the point of telling a story if no one wants to hear it, or if there’s no one to hear it? It’s not a selfish desire for attention, and I wouldn’t label writing as attention seeking behaviour in the same way vein as that person we all know. You know, the one who has to tell stories about themselves in which they were very cool or amazing (those stories that no one else seems to have been present for), or that person that drinks a litre of cheap gin and then dances provocatively on the kitchen table, makes out with the nearest man/woman/ironing board, cries for half an hour on the stairs and then crawls to the toilet to vomit and promptly passes out in the bath. As a side note, if you don’t know someone in your friendship group like that, chances are it’s you.

No, it’s not that kind of attention seeking, being a writer. After all, some of the writers I know are quiet, shy, and retiring types who feel much more at home behind a computer keyboard or with a pen in hand than in a group of people. And of course, the times they spend in groups of people they are sitting back and observing for ideas, patterns, and universalities of behaviour to write about later. But, there’s a need to have the voice heard, to get the message out there and to have someone be the audience for your work. Some of that is recognition, sure, because it’s always nice when someone comes up to you when they’ve read or seen a piece of yours and says “I really enjoyed that”. I won’t deny that there’s a little thrill for every time that happens, and a inability to think of an appropriate response except stammered genuine thanks.

But perhaps the bigger part of the need for the audience is the connection and the understanding you can give and gain. If you write a piece about grief, loss, or something like that, you want the audience to feel compassion for the characters. In the theatre, you want people to cry. You want them to participate in an emotional reaction to the fiction you have woven for them. If it’s a comedy, you want them to laugh. You want to elicit a reaction and to have presented the audience with something that they can relate to. You want to show people something fundamental about the world or about themselves that they’d never thought of or noticed before.

And there’s of course the tiny voice inside you that tells you that you want people to come and watch, or read the words on the page, because you spent hour after hour in writing and editing the characters, designing their lives, giving them things to react to and to deal with, and you love them so eternally and unequivocally that you want others to love them too. Or hate them, if that’s the character’s lot. But you want people to give the characters a credible life, because that’s what you’ve done with your writing.

So until opening night the apprehension will stay with me. And I’d like to say in advance that my eternal gratitude goes out to anyone who sees the show, and I hope it does reach out to you and make you laugh. I wrote it for everyone who comes to see it, so I hope you enjoy it.


6 Responses to “The Need for an Audience”
  1. Break a leg, as the saying goes. I’m sure it’ll be all right on the night.

  2. This is why I push my poetry onto my friends so much, for some sort of acknowledgement; not that it’s brilliant but that it’s actually there. Not that I get anything back… most of them ignore it.
    I think you’ll get a good sized audience in each night. And if you don’t, it’s not because people don’t want to see it, more likely because they don’t know it’s on. Make sure people know. Even if you feel like you’re shoving it down their throats like some kind of AWOL Jehovah’s witness.

    • Nick says:

      Yes, well, sometimes the audience is not as receptive as we’d like. But once you find people who do respond, keep sending them stuff. That’s what I do. Yes, publicity’s always difficult to do in the short time available, but hopefully the word’s out there!

  3. Nicci says:

    I really enjoyed that.

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