Last night I performed Transfigurations-Transgressing Gender in the Bible at Imago Dei Metropolitan Community Church in Glen Mills, PA (about 15 miles outside of Philly).

I had a diverse audience of about 45 people — college students, Quakers, straight, bi, trans and lesbian, young and old. I took my time with the piece maintaining a gentle meditative pace.

For the ending when I reveal the identity of the narrator, I had instructed the light tech to dim the lights. Then as the closing music swelled, I asked her to raise the lights to their brigthest intensity. With the music playing, I exited.

Always (up until last night) at this point the audience applauds, I wait 5 seconds then come out to take a bow. Last night I exited and then nothing. No one clapped. They sat quietly as the music played.

I stood back stage puzzled, baffled. Now what do I do? Wait? Go out anyway? And I wondered for a moment, Did they hate it? Did I confuse them? Offend them? Bore them into a coma?

After what felt like 5 minutes, I walked out onto the stage, and the audience erupted into enthusiastic applause, so much so that I had three curtain calls (I normally do two or ony one.)

So what happened? In talking to Kody and others in attendance they said they knew the play ended when I excited.

I felt the silence helped to settle the messages and images–many new and even startling for some. In many ways I felt pleased with the audience sitting in the stillness of that moment. As a performer I wonder if I did something differently this time. If so, what, and can I do it again? The whole thing puzzles and intrigues me.

Any thoughts?

This post has 5 Comments

  1. shirley on September 22, 2008 at 10:53 pm

    i dunno, were they northern irish?! 😉

    seriously though, crowd dynamic is a very odd thing. i expect that if a couple of people had started clapping a few more might have at that particular point. but if no one claps within a couple of seconds then the silence takes hold and no one will begin to applaud….. maybe. i don’t know. i haven’t seen that show but ian said it was really moving and i guess that the first few seconds were the exhale followed by some emotional thinking….

    at one open mic poetry reading i went to the host suggested at the beginning that if the reader wanted applause they should make some gesture at the end to signal to the audience that it was alright to do so. but poetry can be awkward like that. and it was, of course, in belfast 😉

  2. p2son on September 22, 2008 at 11:49 pm

    shirley, nope, they were North American, although there were some Quakers in the crowd. We’re known for being quiet at times.

    It’s true though that once someone begins clapping (and often standing) most others follow suit (even if they don’t really want to).

    Hmm, a moment to exhale. Perhaps that’s what it was. Do tell Ian I said Hola!

  3. Chris on September 23, 2008 at 2:29 pm


    Your closing scene was so slow and quiet and meditative… and also so physical… there was a way that the silence and physicality was, perhaps, initially uncomfortable… but you carried us with you and I think we grew very respectful of watching that silence and waiting.

    I think we just weren’t clear about the closing cues… I don’t remember clearly enough to know what they were (lights, music, timing, it sounds like they were there). And the silence and physicality of the closing scene made it unclear if silently walking away from center stage was a part of the scene or not. By the time it was clear, you were basically gone — and then it was just a little awkward. I remember being relieved when you came out to take a bow (a most traditional cue!) as then it felt clear that yes, this was the time to express our appreciation.

    I wonder if the lights/music happened too early in the scene to accomplish the goal of closing cue? Or were we processing the final scene so much that we just missed the cues, en masse. I’m not sure.


  4. p2son on September 23, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    Chris, this is helpful. It confirms that a lot happens in the end that require the audience to absorb both the discomfort and the transition.

    I get to perform it a few times in the next few weeks. I will see how people respond as I pay more attention to the closing.

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