While on vacation, my wife and I were delighted to be able to attend a performance of All’s Well That Ends Well at the American Shakespeare Center. We were seated in orchestra, and settling in for a nice passive experience of watching a play, performed in front of us, on a stage.
What happened next has much to do about what makes the American Shakespeare Center, so “Shakespearean”. An announcer of sorts, while inviting patrons to the snack cart, also asked if any members of the audience would like to be seated in the “Lord’s Room”. I did not register this at all, and continued reading the synopsis of the plot and characters so I could refresh my high school introduction to this play.
My wife, however, raised her hand; and before I knew it, we were being escorted by a very welcoming player backstage and then above the stage, to be seated, well, above and behind the stage, in the balcony, suitable for Juliet to send out “wherefore art thou”s…
We were looking out at the audience, and our formerly vacant seats, wondering what exactly we had just done. Before we knew it, the play was afoot, literally, and we delighted in viewing the actors from this new perspective. The highlight was during a scene where a net is dropped onto Parolles, from our very own balcony, entrapping the knave and setting the scene for much hilarity to follow. When the troupe descended from the balcony and reassembled on the main stage; one of the players, Lavatch, I think, turned upwards and gave us two thumbs up – sort of thanking us for participating in the caper. We felt a part of the play, in it, and not watching it.
I will never again be content to sit passively in the audience, though this may not be permitted in other, less “Shakesperean” theatres.
– Richard Evans