Task 2 Research

Research Relating To The Purpose Of Performance And Engaging Audiences

Entertainment Or Education?

In performance there can be several different purposes for a piece of theatre. Education and entertainment are two of these and sometimes they even cross over to engage their audiences. For example Gemskii’s one woman performance of ‘Joan, Babs And Sheila Too’ which we saw recently at Conservatoire East did both but had the main intention to educate. It educated drama students about Joan Littlewood and her influence in performance yet also had a primary aim to entertain as well. If the purpose of a piece of theatre is to educate an audience, then it means that the audience come away having learnt something from the performance. In our commission project we will likely have elements to educate, as traditional stories often have this as their purpose and this is what we are basing our theatre on. For example cautionary tales have a purpose to teach children a certain way to behave. This is a form of theatre to educate as it has the aim to teach the social norms and values to children, in hope that they act accordingly themselves. Some pieces of theatre to educate aim to change the way in which people think about something and others dictate ways to behave. Although our commission project will have some form of a lesson and a macro purpose to educate, this doesn’t mean that we won’t also have a factor of entertainment. We want our work to be enjoyable and engaging so that audiences watch the whole performance , which is harder to do with street theatre but will be easier if we try to make it entertaining to watch. Some shows can be just to entertain and have no educational purpose but most shows now seem to have at least a micro purpose (even if this is sometimes hidden) to educate as funding for performances happen more frequently when educating is involved. Those shows which do aim just to entertain act as a form of escapism from the everyday life and give you time to enjoy.

Understanding the role and requirements of the performers/ writers/ choreographers/musical directors/ directors

Performers: Performers are the ones who audience members will see, unlike choreographers and directors ect as the audience won’t come into contact with them. This means that performers are the ones who have the role to engage the audiences. It is a performer’s duty to present their character and convey the purpose and the message of the performance. They need to take the lines written by the playwright and make them mean something; bringing them to life. It is down to them to impact the audience in the short time that they have and to bring to life a play. If the performances purpose it to entertain they have to do all that they can to fulfil this.

Writers:Sometimes writers will create a play on request and sometimes they won’t. If it is on request then they need to produce a body of text that is suited to the request either cast numbers, style or genre ect. They have the role of creating the story, characters, plot and the ideas for the play. This is needed a long time before the actors can perform it. Playwrights have a huge collaborative part to the industry and depending on the directors and the show some writers have more impact later on in the process than others. Writers have to engage through their words and their content.

Choreographers: They plan, develop and create the dance and movement elements of a show to give it the best effect. They need to make sure this fits the style of the performance and is within the capability of the cast. They then will often have to train dancers and actors in the dance routines and movement. They need to have an extensive knowledge in dance and be able to interpret a Director’s instructions and contribute their own ideas. They have the task of engaging the audience through the dances in which they create.

Musical Directors: A musical director will do all of the arranging and teaching of the music and songs for a show. They make the musical decisions for the performance and it is their job to make the music fit with the style and themes of a performance. They have to engage the audience with they music which adds to the performance experience.

Directors: A director makes all of the main artistic decisions before and during the rehearsals for a show. They have to organise and manage to bring about a unified vision in the form of the finished production.

The Audience Contract

Different audience contracts can effect what actors need to do to attract the different types of audience. With ticket buyers they intend to see the performance and have chosen themselves to come and see the show, likely due to the fact that they have a pre-existing interest. They are more likely people who are used to going to the theatre and have a cultural understanding of the way theatre works.

With passers-by they could be anyone so we don’t know their cultural understanding of theatre. In fact a lot of passers-by may not have seen much or any theatre at all before. This means that when performing for passers-by you have to remember that could be any one so you have to try to appeal to everyone and cater for the ‘lowest common denominator’. This means making sure the content of the performance is appropriate, for an example young children may not cope well if something is too scary, violent or complex. As well as this, with passers-by you can’t assume that they are interested in theatre and will want to stop and see the performance. They haven’t made a prior agreement to see the show like ticket holders do. This means that when performing street theatre it is important to engage the audience and make the work visually appealing so that you can capture attention and build interest for the piece and theatre in general. Passers-by can also leave at any time because they again have no prior agreement to see the performance, meaning the performance needs to be entertaining and the right length of show to keep its audience.

Captive Audience are those who have no choice but to attend. Their contract is completely different as they don’t get a say in attending and often is because it’s a required course. They also may have the cultural deprivation when it comes to theatre so again the content needs to be accessible to everyone. Even though they are required to be there, it is still important that they are engaged and entertained so that hopefully the message of the performance is still gotten across. This can be harder with a captive audience as some captive audiences don’t really want to be there. An example of a captive audience would be children at a school if the school says they are going to watch a performance.

The Effect Of Different Stage Configurations To Audiences And Performers

The different types of staging can hugely effect the atmosphere of a piece of theatre and can be a positive attribute to a show if it is done well. After looking at the different stage configurations in lessons and from previous performing experiences it is clear to see how these different types of staging impact and effect both the actors and the audiences watching them. Thrust, proscenium arch (or end on), in the round, traverse and promenade are the main configurations for staging a performance. You also have immersive theatre where an audience is involved in the action physically but there is no specific staging for this.


The audience are on either side on a traverse stage which is almost like a catwalk. This means the audience can clearly see work that happens at two sides. The audience can also see each other which can have the effect of creating an intimacy. A traverse stage could even be used to split the two different sides of the audience against each other for certain types of performance which could be really effective. It can also do the same for the actors if they are doing a piece about war for example, as they can use the two ends to show different sides. The effect of using traverse for an actor can be difficult as you need to consider both sides of the audience and the best place to be seen is at the end of the stage. There is also the difficulty of an absence of wings for the performers so this can be another complication. An example of traverse being used is 1991 The Derby Playhouse Community Theatre had a production based on the events on Christmas Day in the trenches of World War 2.

The Round:

The effect of using the round can be really great in creating an intimate exciting atmosphere, which can work really well for pieces that need audience involvement as everything is so close. This also makes it easy for actors to break the fourth wall if they would like to. However it is also one of the harder configurations to position yourself in as an actor, as there are not many places where you can be positioned and still be seen by the majority of the audience. Although this is the case the best positions to stand in as an actor in the round are the vomitoriums, this will allow for the most amount of people to see you. It is also useful to consider your proxemix and use diagonals too so that at least one person can be seen by every audience member. Although the round can help at getting audience involvement it can sometimes have the opposite effect on quieter audiences as it can be an intimidating affair because you are so close and surrounding the action. Therefore it is important to consider this both when acting and staging in the round.



Thrust staging has the audience on three sides, this can give the audience a closer view of the action to help immerse themselves in what is happening. Although this is the case, large pieces of scenery can only really be placed at the rear of the stage otherwise some audience members wouldn’t be able to see the action properly. The effect on an actor when using traverse is that you need to be careful to not turn your back to large sections of the audience. This means often the action is blocked deep in the space or at its leading edge. This is also the type of staging that happens with audiences outside in the pubic most often as its the most natural formation people go into when seeing something as a passer by. The most well known thrust stage however is The Globe which is located on South Bank in London.


Proscenium arch/ End On:

This is the most common type of stage configuration and is used regularly for a variety of different performances. It removes the audience from the action slightly compared to other types of staging and it is almost like a tv as you are separated when watching the performance and the arch looks almost like a picture frame. It can be easier to stage performances done in proscenium arch as the standard stage left, stage right, upstage and down stage are easy to understand and an actor can be generally seen wherever they are placed on stage.



Theatre done in promenade can work brilliantly if the locations suit the work presented as it can give the audience an interesting experience beyond the acting. As an actor you need to remember when moving between locations it can break the tension of the piece, so to stay in character is something that is of a high focus. Another effect of promenade is that you need commitment from the audience and control from the actors in order to direct the audience’s attention towards where the next scene is going to take place. Sometimes you can’t control things in the surrounding area which could have a negative effect on the piece.

Different Platforms


The main purposes of TV seem to be to inform, educate and to entertain. One way in which they entertain is through the escapism they provide for its audience. As TV has the ability to be heavily edited unlike theatre and live performance, it has more ability to create different worlds and atmospheres which in the theatre can be limited to what the actors and technical elements can produce. It engages its audience by the wide amount of content available so that there is something for everyone. TV is also now largely accessible, a lot of people own a TV so it doesn’t require much to use it, this is unlike theatre where you have to go out and sometimes travel if you wish to see a particular show. This adds a purpose of convenience to TV as it provides some of the same purposes that live performance does, yet is reaching more people. Although this is the case TV is far more separated than theatre as the audience aren’t there with the actors, meaning there is only so much depth to the engagement.


Like TV radios macro purposes seem to be to inform, entertain and educate the audience. It differs from TV as it is an unseen platform of entertainment and often reaches different audiences. Stereotypically the older generation are listening to the day time and more topical debate based content that radio provides, so radio has adapted its topics to fit this target market. Hence why you will find topics covered such as politics and gardening because they want to engage the older generation. With pop culture radio stations they use lexical fields relating to music, films and celebrities as this is typically what interests their targeted market of younger people. By doing this it helps to engage the younger generation as topics they are interested in are being discussed. As mentioned earlier radio is an unseen platform so as they can’t visually engage their audiences they have to focus on what they are saying. The tone and language used with each station will be to engage their specific targeted audience. For the pop culture stations they tend to use more colloquialisms and won’t tend to speak with Received Pronunciation as this isn’t as relatable for the younger generation. This is different with the channels aimed at the older generation as Received Pronunciation is easy to understand and stereotypically preferred by them. By making these changes in language with radio it helps to engage each audience and entertain as it is fulfilling the audience’s expectations and what they wish to hear.

Live Performance:

The same purposes apply to live performances. They also tend to aim to be entertaining, informative or to educate and sometimes have a mixture of all three. The main difference with live performance is that the audience are there with you, meaning a performance can be so much more immersive. It allows for audience interaction and you get more of an experience from going to see a performance live rather than on a TV. The lighting and sound is around you and you can feel more involved. Live performance engages by creating an atmosphere that passed on to the audience and can make them feel how the actors want them too if done well. The visuals and sounds come together to captivate the audience.

Ways Of Interpreting Narrative

People interpret narratives differently all of the time. It is a common occurrence especially for older narratives as time has past for them to be changed and adapted sometimes subtly and sometimes not. It changes the stories meaning quite often and an example is little red ridding hood which we looked at in lessons. There is a much darker scarier version, versions that are more classic and then those which are more comedic. The interpretation of the narrative effects what the audience take away from the piece and also who it is aimed towards. It can also cause a piece to completely change its purpose making it more to entertain or sometimes to inform. In fact just by changing the narrative it has such a large effect on the pieces purpose and can create a vastly different atmosphere.

How Other Companies Use These

Showstoppers are an improvisation company who create musicals on the spot. They engage their audience by having audience participation and allowing them to choose themes for the musical, this is possible as they have a live audience. This means they adapt the narrative to the audience they have got and what they want to see. This element of surprise helps for their work to fulfil the purpose to entertain. They also explain how they work and a little bit about improvisation before they start each show so it also informs and educates audiences of their art form. The audience contract is people who have already bought tickets so they have an almost simpler job than if it was for passers by.

Showstopper. (2016). Showstopper! The Improvised Musical. Available: http://www.theshowstoppers.org/showstopper-the-improvised-musical/. Last accessed 2nd Oct 2016.

Gecko is a physical theatre company which are collaborators in the Pulse festival in Ipswich. On their website it said they aimed to ‘ inspire, move and entertain’. They go about doing this by experimenting and devising visual and physical pieces. This makes their work easy to be performed anywhere as they use hardly any words so it can be appreciated outside just as much as inside. Education is highly important to them as they want to open doors to as many people as possible.Frequently they go to schools and universities to pass on this art. They also have a harder task than some other companies as it is an artist-led organisation meaning that they have to market, and develop the creative process themselves. As a company they are aiming to reach a personal connection through their performing and engage audiences through this. Part of the spectacle of their movements and dynamics comes from the fact it is performed live and audiences can see it all in front of them.

Gecko. (2016). About Gecko. Available: http://geckotheatre.com/about/. Last accessed 2nd Oct 2016.



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