The Durango Arts Center is putting out a call for yet more artists: The audience.
In Jane Wagner’s The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, aliens come for a visit. Trudy takes them to the theater, and this is what happens:
“We were at the back of the theater, standing there in the dark, when all of a sudden I feel one of ’em tug at my sleeve, whispers, ‘Trudy, look!’ I said, ‘Yeah, goose bumps. You definitely got goose bumps. You like the play that much?’ They said it wasn’t the play that gave ’em goose bumps, it was the audience!
I’d forgot to tell them to watch the play; they’d been watching the audience! Yeah, to see a group of people sitting together in the dark, laughing and crying at the same things ... well, that just knocked ’em out! They said, ‘Trudy, the play was soup, the audience, art.’
So they’re taking goose bumps back with ’em into space. Goosebumps! Quite a souvenir. I like to think of them out there in the dark, watching us.
Sometimes we’ll do something and they’ll laugh. Sometimes we’ll do something and they’ll cry. And maybe, one day we’ll do something so magnificent, the whole universe will get goose bumps.”
Indeed, this is often one of the great goals of artists, for their work to be the magnificent source for an epidemic of goose bumps.
And for that, you need an audience. It is a magical experience being part of an audience; a communal bonding over a shared experience.
When looking at the theater specifically, playwright David Mamet says, “When you come into the theater, you have to be willing to say, ‘We’re all here to undergo a communion, to find out what the hell is going on in this world.’”
Whether it is to seek clarity and purpose in today’s world, or to be temporarily transported to another realm and time, or to forget your troubles and be merely entertained, it is a powerful privilege to be witness to a piece of art.
A beautiful painting, a moving play, a dance can capture the human spirit and engage our imagination. It is an audience, after all, that moves a piece of art from being an inert object to one of movement and meaning.
So I encourage you to become an artist of the audience and do something magnificent. Put down the computer or remote control and step into the world of the Durango Arts Center.
Visit in October to join others in a centuries-old Japanese matcha tea ceremony or grab your friends and transform a piece of fabric into a work of art in a batik class.
Or, gather your family to watch the classic “A Christmas Carol” and enjoy the goose bumps you get from watching a miserly old man transform into a kind, compassionate soul. Better yet, join.
Theresa Carson is the Artistic Director and Theater Manager at the Durango Arts Center. email@example.com.