Writer: Leela K.
Visual: Erica N.
Editor: Norbu D.
Last week was our high school’s production of, Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812. The play was a great success, and all four shows were completely sold out. In addition, the play this year was like no other, because the audience was seated on stage right alongside the performers. The musical was staged and set up as a supper club/opera house in 19th century Russia, and therefore there was a great deal of audience interaction. However, as magical as this new feature may have been for some audience members, it is my opinion that a stage set up for audience interaction is not the best format for a highschool play, and audiences should not be seated on stage.
Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 is a musical that was/is intended to be staged interactively. However, the fact remains that many of the interactive elements of the play were a challenge to say the least. For starters, as one anonymous crew member said, “by the end of each show there were people who had moved their chairs outside of the seating plan and into the path of the performers.” Disrupting the actors on stage who had just spent weeks learning their blocking, and posing a safety risk to the performers. Not only that, but on the first day of the play there were audience members who sat in seats meant for the performers to use. This resulted in a flurry of panic as everyone attempted to figure out when and how they could relocate the audience members without disrupting the world before them, while also making sure that the props were available to the performers so that their blocking and choreography would not be interrupted.
Furthermore, there were also a few audience members who used their phones during the performance which is always an issue but a larger one due to the unconventional set up. Not only is the use of a cell phone during a performance rude and insulting, but because the audience was all seated directly by the performers the effect of a phone being used during a performance was only that much more pronounced than they typically are/would be.
Although there were minor hitches and while the audience interaction may have been slightly more taxing on the performers, having the audience seated by the actors was a unique and interesting way to further involve the audience and enhance their experience of the play; truly immersing the audience in the setting of an opera house in 19th century Russia.
All in all, this year’s high school play was fantastic and everyone who worked in/on the play should be proud of themselves for delivering a great production. The interactive elements of the play were exciting. That being said, it does not seem fair to the cast and crew to have them have to work around the whims and mistakes of the audience, which is why audiences should not be seated next to performers.