Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Telling Life: Does size matter?

I am in the middle of a run at the Minnesota Fringe Festival. I'm telling The Adventures of Crazy Jane and Red Haired Annie, stories I dearly love, stories I know listeners usually enjoy, but my audiences are small; I'm in a hundred-seat theater and am filling no more than a quarter of the seats.

Fringe festivals are funny things. There are hundreds of performances, often selected by lottery, and the artists must do their own marketing beyond the basic stuff provided by the festival. It's hard work and can be grueling. It helps to have a local following or something that's easily described, and here I have neither. So my audiences have been small.

This has me thinking about quantity vs. quality of audience. It's easy to see value in a large audience, knowing I have drawn a whole bunch of people to my show. It can be harder to see value in smaller but still deeply appreciative audiences, because the immediate visual hit of fewer people in the room is unsettling.

I am reminding myself of what Brother Blue used to say, the room is full of angels. He's right, of course. Regardless of the size of the audience, if they are present, interested and engaged, then they are a good audience. Sure, it helps when there are more people, there is something about a critical mass that helps good storytelling become better, but the key is the connection between teller and listener, be that one child utterly entranced by a story, ten adults having a really good time or a couple hundred each in their own shared moment. It's about remembering that every individual audience member has chosen to be there and I am honoring their presence by doing the best I can.

So yes, I'd be lying if I said size doesn't matter, of course it feels good playing to sold out rooms, but as it is with most things in the world, it's what you do with it that really makes the difference.

(c)2016 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License


  1. Oh, I feel for you. Always a challenge. Great that you've got that reminder from Brother Blue. The audience always appreciates it when they can see us giving it our all.

    Bite your tongue!

    1. I can hear Blue every single time. And yes, no matter the size when we give it our all the audience knows.

  2. You're completely right. It's how I have experienced it myself. Well said and written.


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