Who needs who

More from 99 - this time as a guest at Parabasis

it puts into my mind a bigger question: is there a difference between writing to an audience, writing for an audience and writing about an audience, particularly if you're engaged in anything at all activist in your work? And should there be only one audience? Shouldn't a work be able to reach more than one group, provide more than one kind of entertainment? … Not every audience needs every message, or needs it in the same way.

He's referencing some very useful Scott Walters posts — The other night I was at a theatre festival that at the end of the night had a band play. And while I had enjoyed my night before the band, watching the band I started to think about who needed who. (As opposed to who made who - also a great question)

In the first few moments of the performance, it became clear to me that I needed the band. I needed the way the singer sung and the keyboards got played. I didn’t know, before they started, that I needed them - I knew some friends liked them - but I didn’t know I needed them.

And I had a feeling that they didn’t need me as much as I needed them. And that that was as it should be. I was, in that moment, sick of being needed by the shows I see, by the performances of those shows. [This all sounds terrible, I know that - but I need to track out this feeling.] That I had needs (dammit) that I didn’t even know, and what I really needed was for some performance to come out and meet those needs.

Maybe the devastating scarcity (funding, audience, fame, lunch-money) and desperate need for self-expression/exhibitionism to ward off alienation results in shows in which the creator “needs to say something” “needs to express” him or her self.

I want to be in shows in which something needs to be said - not for the well-being of the maker (though that will always be part of it) but also, and most importantly, for a need that is outside the maker. For a need in the public - who are sitting in the audience - who include me.

There is a crazy ego in these statements - I get that. But no one decides to - willingly, often - step out and speak in public without a fair dose of ego.

And I need to be clear that I want avoid patronizing and talking down. Because nobody needs that. So any real consideration of the needs of others removes patronizing - removes any desire to prove superiority - removes all non-consensual power games. Because nobody needs those things. Really.

And so, rather than an ego that is about exposure or dominance, the play of needs might be about consideration and kindness (when sometimes a splash of cold water to the face is the kindest act - this isn’t about only soothing or not saying hard things)

This is all fine to say - but what does it look like? A certain confidence. A certain care and craft. Some leadership and vision. Self-reflection and observation of the world around us. Because I don’t think my needs, honestly examined, are so unique or special that others won’t share them. But this will lead to some bold, scary moments. For everyone involved.

I’ve wandered and rambled from the original posts, but still think the wanderings are related - the need to have a great conversation with the local grocer is a very similar to the need theatre fulfills for me. Good ideas, good will, good time.

Whenever my theatre has failed it’s been by forgetting what I actually need from the theatre. Both as an audience and a maker.