Learning to Stay: Navigating the Audience

by Cast Member Kat Wodtke (Elise)

“A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.” - Franz Kafka

So must a play.

And one of the discoveries I’ve made performing Learning to Stay in the beautiful and intimate Playhouse Theater is that my character is navigating a different sea every night. A sea of living, breathing people – the audience – who surround and become an integral part of Elise’s story. Sometimes the sea is calm and quiet, invisible currents running beneath the surface. Other times there’s an audible turbulence, ice calving and crashing as a certain line, moment, or discovery lands.

A good navigator must keep sights on their destination, and yet, to get there, they must assess the conditions at all times and react accordingly. This becomes a fascinating balancing act as my character, facing an impossible choice she never imagined making, opens up to her audience. What will she read on the faces of her listeners each night? Judgment? Blame? Empathy? And how do I, as the actor, react honestly and in the moment to this new character (YOU!) while staying the course?

The beauty of live theatre resides in this element of surprise. Every performance is different. Every audience is different. And just like Elise must learn to embrace the unpredictable, so must I!