Scrooge was having a great day. Until the costume change.
At the Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre* in, you know, Arrow Rock, Missouri, the boards were brightened over the 2014 end-of-year holiday season by the spirited cast of “A Christmas Carol” (the small theatre setting is magical, by the way, if you happen by).
Scrooge was in his transformation! All the ghosts had gone and he realized he was whole, reborn, and just in time for Christmas day! HE HADN’T MISSED IT!
That is, until The Kid in the Audience showed up.
The Kid in the Audience is the child in many, if not all of us that is looking for magic. And mischief.
I’ve encountered The Kid many times over the years as professional actor and professional audience member (cuz I paid money), largely in the professional theatre. The Kid, by carefully studied definition:
- Loves a great story
- Loves a great story that goes awry (even slightly)
- Wants to play
They go to a car race for the thrill of performance. And for the crashes. They watch tv shows and movies to be taken away but shout “continuity!” when the scene edits don’t match up. They obsess over a costume malfunction at the Super Bowl. And, The Kid is always present at live performances ready to marvel at the work of artists, but are also ready for same to have a challenging moment.
So our Scrooge in Arrow Rock arrived at his moment with The Kid. This version of Dickens’s masterpiece called for a costume change from bedclothes to street suit whilst Scrooge delighted in his spirit-infused transformation.
There was only one hitch in the git-along: The Microphone.
(At this point, your classical theatre trained author could launch into a tirade on the use of microphones in the live theatre but respects you enough to leave that for an adult beverage interaction).
Tugging his long nightshirt up over his street clothes costume underneath (go with the costume convention here—don’t know that we’d want to see an even quarter-naked curmudgeon) went well for our Scrooge, but donning his black suit coat presented a struggle as the tails got caught on the wireless microphone battery pack perched on Scrooge’s belt just over his buttocks.
Scrooge knew it, and continuing in his relentless recitation of delight-filled Dickensian dialogue he negotiated the suit-tails-microphone-battery-pack tucking once, twice and now three times.
Enter The Kid from downstage center. They had Scrooge at the first tucking attempt.
Give The Kid some credit though. They didn’t vocally express themselves until Scrooge’s third try at adjusting his wardrobe dilemma. But then, it was an audible titter that meandered through the crowd.
C’mon! It had nothing at all to do with the action on the stage! The story at that moment wasn’t about a microphone pack on a belt. But the mischievous Kid was out of the story almost instantly—they were about reveling in something gone wrong. And highlighting the misstep with their public response.
As communicators, especially in a live delivery situation, what are we to do with this impressionable audience member, Our Kid?
- Be aware they’re there. And don’t be surprised when they react the way they do. Humbly roll with their response and adjust your Action to accommodate.
- Prepare a great story. Remember, The Kid, in spite of mischievous tendencies loves to be swept away. Create compelling content and an appropriate Atmosphere where they can play.
- Leverage the live event. Feature the fact that you’re up there playing with them in real time. Set up the “liveness” of the event in your intro and invite The Kid to play.
You’ve got to be a skilled Actor to handle The Kid. Welcome them to your stage.
After all, it’s your stage, your performance. And, you’re on!