Up Close and Personal: Researching the use of Direct Address in Theater for Children
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Direct address in theater for children is a unique and remarkable convention unlike anything commonly seen in adult theater. Where an adult audience prefers to sit in silence during a performance, perhaps showing appreciation occasionally with applause or cheering, a youth audience is constantly expressing their responses vocally, and if spoken to by the performers it is more than likely that they will talk right back. This project explores why and how a young person experiences theater differently, and why this lends itself favorably to direct address. I investigated how frequently direct address is being used in Los Angeles children?s theater and how it is made effective and ineffective through my attending and analyzing productions in the area and through my work this summer as a company member in the Occidental Children?s Theater. I found that the majority of LA children?s theater did indeed incorporate some or many forms of direct address and even audience participation to engage their young audiences to varying degrees of success. Direct address is an art, and numerous factors ranging from the performances to the blocking to the physical nature of the performance space can affect its effectiveness. This project explores these contributing factors and how they affected my own performance in the children?s theater as well as the performances I viewed as a spectator.