COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF AUDIENCE ENGINEERING

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

GENERAL INTRODUCTION

Perhaps it has gone unnoticed that theatre audiences everywhere in the world are a dominant force in the theatre hierarchy. Because of their role of involvement, audience members’ breath gives “life” to a theatrical performance. Brecht recognized this and sought an alternative mode of dramaturgy that “instructs questions, prompts redefinitions that arouse new thought, and is thus truly agitational” (54)

Indeed, it is the nature of the theatre to jolt its audience out of their trance and prepare them for action during its performances. Adedeji gives it this rating:

The medium of theatre engages a person in positive self-discovery and expression… Whatever emotion, meaning, and spirit is created in the theatre is usually shared with the audience.

audience members who will be able to participate in it (20).

This study considers two issues in order to accomplish this feat. The first is what constitutes theatre audiences and what it is to build audiences; and the second is how far this could go in keeping them in a formal sense as audiences given that theatre requires audiences all the time vis-a-vis the administration of audiences who have come to the theatre to engage with new ideas while being entertained.

It is assumed that Nigerian educational theatres can build audiences; however, keeping them is a different story. On the other hand, the decline in theatre attendance, possibly due to the theatre’s inability to keep or sustain it, explains the long journey of lower patronage.

of theatrical performances. In this regard, Nwamuo’s claim that the theatre is

…. a demonstration (imitation) of any action by anyone as a group of people in a specific place and time, with or without makeup, costumes, rehearsals, or improvisation in front of an audience gathered for interest to share and celebrate… (40).

By its content, scope, and methodologies recognizes that the audience is the better half of the theatre enterprise, seeks to entice them to come “savour” the performance, understands how to retain them for the future by making them comfortable, catering to their needs, and ensuring their safety while on the premises.

As a result, the concept of planning, organizing, directing, and controlling audience members and their interactions in order to achieve predetermined goals emerged.

The management of the theatre influences having a full house, ensuring satisfaction, and making the most profit by engineering the audience members in a patterned manner. Nwamuo regards this as;

…the skillful instruction, concocting, and devising of a method of getting the intended audience to see what they have to see, in an organized, comfortably safe, and pleasurable environment, so that they will continue to patronize the organization’s programs (10).

Audience engineering is a highly competitive and advanced practice in today’s educational theatre. It is accompanied by the “art” and “science” woven around various techniques to deal with its compelling, demanding, and gruesome nature.

To that end, this research compares the Chinua Achebe Theatre at the University of Calabar. and the audience engineering approaches used by the University of Uyo Little Play House during their production seasons.

1.1   STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM

Without good and effective approaches in managing the audience that “invade” the theatre especially, in the Nigerian Universities, there is every tendency that the theatre will one day experience a “zero turn-out”. This is especially true when one considers that patronage for live performances, no matter how elaborate, has not been encouraging awareness of other forms of entertainment prevalent in society. This eliminates the assumption that, while the theatre is capable of building audiences, it lacks the “grace” to keep and maintain them, resulting in the drop in theatre audience experienced by theatre organizations.

However, this researcher believes that theatre audiences, particularly those in educational theaters, can be improved if effective audience engineering strategies are implemented.

1.2   JUSTIFICATION OF THE STUDY

Since audience engineering entails the scientific and skilled designing, organizing, and implementing of an action plan aimed at attracting large audiences to a theatrical event using the art and science of human management, the nature of the study aims to analyze, through a comparative study, the approaches of engineering the audience members who visit the University of Uyo Little Play House and its Calabar counterpart, The Chinua Achebe Arts Theatre, with emphasis censure. As a result, this work proposes that other Nigerian theatres (educational or commercial) adopt the “Idea” of audience engineering used by these theatres as presented in this work.

 

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