This is the fifth of five parts on setting up proper-distanced events. While focusing on storytelling, the information applies to any performing arts or proper-distanced event. Our blog as well as our proper-distanced house concerts with rental of recordings are wonderful sources of information and entertainment.
- Part 1 – Distancing & Spacing – REVEALED
- Part 2 – Sanitation & Other Safety Measures – REVEALED
- Part 3 – Test Runs & Early Set-Ups – REVEALED
- Part 4 – Relief to Potential Audience – REVEALED
- Part 5 – Audience Isolation Behaviors – TODAY
You have an event…and the audience arrives. Nervous for how the audience will react after being in isolation or limited social contact?
Every audience is different. That has stayed the same during this Historic Time.
You must be ready to “warm up” the audience.
You need an energetic emcee. The emcee needs to prove that safety measure were made for this proper-distanced and masked event while giving permission for people to express themselves through laughter, sighs, cries, and applause.
Some people will say, “No! The audience cannot laugh! At least not as much.”
True, when people laugh, more water droplets are expelled. Thus the need of masks. You already worked out proper-distancing and had 15 or more feet from the microphone to the front row. If you are worried that the audience responses will be a danger, then increase the distance of the microphone to the front row.
Before Halloween, I was invited to a live event to perform. I already explained what I expected so to feel safe as a performer. When I arrived, they doubled the distance between me and the front row. It was 30 feet–at least. I did not move that front row. I was plenty happy.
Now, I knew that distance could make a difference in the audience response. This is where the performer can help warm up the audience even before the emcee. I welcomed people–while wearing my mask and being at least 15 feet away–and did a type of informal survey of where people were from or how many times they had attended this type of event. Being talkative psychologically told the audience that people did not have to be “hush, hush” when it came time for me to perform.
I have seen the extremes in audience behavior at the Story Crossroads proper-distanced events.
Our Story Camp held at the International Peace Gardens in Salt Lake City, Utah had a quite bunch of youth. We spanned a wide area despite limiting our group to no more than 20 people (we ended up having 15 youth and 3 adults). When our two professionals led them in songs or story activities the youth held back. They looked around to see how loud the other kids reacted. The camp was in August while the quarantine had occurred from March until that moment. Five months. Five months of limited or no social interactions besides their families.
We still had wonderful interactions and growth and learning…but the energy level was much lower than any other youth gatherings I have seen with storytelling–or any arts or topic.
Why is that? Hmmm.
Then I saw the starved audience member. When we resumed our house concert series in August 2020, I asked for much applause and whooping to celebrate live art while doing so in a safe manner. For many, it was the first live performing arts event for them since March 2020. They were ready to celebrate!
These are some comments shared with permission from our audience members–
“Be honest, I did not know what to expect so I came totally open. I just had a wonderful time. It was wonderful to get out and be around like-minded people, lovers of stories….My husband commented that it really lifted his mood to participate in that evening.” – Elizabeth, Utah
“We do appreciate your dedication to proper distancing. Thank You!!!” – Lenore, Utah
“I believe it would be well to implement the same safety measures as does Hale Center Theatre. If a a “group” of two or three people come together–or wish to sit together–they seat them together. It is up to the people involved to determine what they feel safe with in that regard. Much the same as in CDC restaurant guidelines: ‘Change restaurant and bar layouts to ensure that all customer parties remain at least 6 feet apart (e.g., marking tables/stools that are not for use).’ Emphasis on the word ‘parties.’ Other than that, the safety measures were lovely–plenty of space–markers to remind people to be distanced and to wear masks.” – Karla, Utah
The trickiest time was when two different households of the same family attended an event.
These groups were hard to remind and enforce to keep the distancing. I had to be more firm and diligent in those situations. I learned it was best to remind of the “different household” rule as people checked in…all while saying it with a smile.
I searched around for articles connected to audiences – for live or digital events:
- Audience spontaneous entrainment during the collective enjoyment of live performances: physiological and behavioral measurements – published March 2, 2020 (yes, before shutdowns)
- This Is Your Brain on Good Storytelling – published November 12, 2014, while short, still a couple fascinating thoughts
- Paul J. Zak said, “…we tested if narratives shot on video, rather than face-to-face interactions, would cause the brain to make oxytocin. By taking blood draws before and after the narrative, we found that character-driven stories do consistently cause oxytocin synthesis. Further, the amount of oxytocin released by the brain predicted how much people were willing to help others.”
- Why Your Brain Loves Good Storytelling – another article referenced within this one by Paul J. Zak himself – published October 28, 2014
- What Will The Future Of Theater Look Like? ‘Our Artists Are Going To Lead Us’ – published September 20, 2020
- What Actors—and Audiences—Can Expect When We Return to the Theater – published May 23, 2020
- Use of New Narratives for COVID-19 Reporting: From 360º Videos to Ephemeral TikTok Videos in Online Media – while not focused on live audience members, article does explore the digital offerings in the arts and its impact on people today (to be seen in live audience members)
- Arts Organizations Forced to Find New Audiences During COVID-19 Shutdowns – published March 31, 2020
You can make this live event happen. Think with logic and love. Enjoy the energy from a proper-distanced event. Thank you for joining in this particular blog series.
Besides our usual “Cap’s Off to You!” series, we will be doing a 9-part blog series soon called “What We Learned from Timpanogos Storytelling Festival & Virtual Offerings.”
See our already-streamed/recorded The Big Why Panel: Historical Storytelling meets Humanities. See our 5-video playlist from the Story Crossroads Spectacular by clicking here.