The Austin based Rude Mechanicals, last seen in Philly at the 2011 Live Arts Festival performing their show The Method Gun, has taken to the web pages of HowlRound to state the essential role audiences play in the development of their work. Particularly since their work is devised, made “collaboratively and on our feet,” getting audiences in on the process, finding out what works and what doesn’t, what’s compelling and what’s not, through workshop performances, talkbacks, and discussion, is integral to advancing both the quality and creative heart of their work. You sense a little at the proclamation that since they’re “not lazy assholes” who take their audiences for granted, they may have written this in part to give a kick in the pants to artists who are lazy assholes, and who whine about showing early stages of their work to live audiences.
Of course this very philosophy is at the heart of the Fringe Arts LAB, and the work developed by the LAB fellows and other artists through showings, most prominently through Scratch Night and production residencies. There is something refreshingly unapologetic about Rude Mechs statement, but at the heart of it, they are saying that not only does the audience matter, but that those audiences (particularly local audiences) participating in this process are key contributors to the artistic development and shape of the actual show. They should know, because the proof is in their shows.
Furthermore, they write, “Meeting the audiences’ desires is every bit as important as fulfilling our own artistic desires. An audience feels that when they walk through the doors of a venue—whether or not they were a part of the creation process. Audiences know how much they were considered, whether you gave any kind of shit that they are even there, whom you were expecting to come. And when they don’t feel considered, they shut down before they ever sit down. But if they do feel considered and cared for—in terms of making it engaging and pleasurable and challenging—all at once, that makes them very willing to go down whatever road we ourselves are on.”
Check out the whole article here. Be warned, it is also a bit of a love letter to Austin, and Austin audiences, with the kind of emotional sentiment most East Coaster will find repellent due to our gross cynicism.