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Gulfshore Playhouse opened its doors last night to the first audience for Bruce Graham’s Something Intangible. First audiences are huge. Nerves, excitement, inspiration, mistakes, these are just some of the components that make up a first audience night. It is the first time we get to test what we have made with the final addition of that most important piece of the puzzle: a living, breathing audience.

This is one of the most magical parts of theatre, the living breathing part, I mean. Not only is the audience sitting there together, having a shared experience (which of course you can get at the movies, or on a smaller scale at home), but the cast is also there in the room, and the crew, all breathing the same air (not an experience that can be duplicated anywhere but in the live arts).

Shawn Fagan and Ian Merrill Peakes in Gulfshore Playhouse's production of "Something Intangible".
Shawn Fagan and Ian Merrill Peakes in Gulfshore Playhouse’s production of “Something Intangible”.

Breath. Important stuff. As a young actor, it is one of the first things you begin to learn about. The way your body uses its bellows, how to open a clear path for the breath to move, how to control it, when to inhale it, when to expel it. There are whole systems and techniques developed for training actors to use this very important tool to its greatest effect.

We generally take it for granted. Breathing, I mean. Just kind of happens. Until it doesn’t.

And metaphorically at least, that is one thing that can happen on first audience nights. Breathing can stop.

One of the more subtle and elusive things in creating a live piece of art, whether it is theatre, or music, or dance, is the ability to make sure that the room, audience and performers alike, are breathing together. I don’t mean literally, of course (that would be a strange phenomena). But in a very important, and intangible way, the flow of energy in the room between audience and performer is heavily influenced by everyone’s ability to breathe together.

And this is something I noticed last night. There were some nerves at the top of the show (totally to be expected with a first audience) and the actors clamped down a bit, stopping the fluidity of their breath. As they relaxed though, you could feel the audience lean forward in their seats. The dynamics and internal orchestrations that we had built as a production team started to come to life, and the audience moved with them. The room started to breathe together.

And so, I leave you with this: Remember to breathe. Seems like silly advice sometimes, but I am sure you have heard it before. Oh, and go see theatre. When you have the magical experience of being in a room of spectators and performers all working in conjunction together and that intangible moment happens where the room gets in sync, it is unforgettable. Breathe.

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