The SQM Process

Interaction between the Actors and Audience

Before the advent of stage lighting, actors and audience were lit by the same light source, and with the audience visible to the actors on the stage, theatre was a far more interactive experience. But what was the nature of that interaction?

When the reconstructed Globe Theatre in London first opened in 1996, performances were preceded by a short speech that encouraged the audience to vocalize their reactions to the action on the stage. We tried a similar technique in a preparatory public workshop, the "Experiment in Elizabethan Comedy," but the research team felt that this pre-conditioned a modern audience to a kind of deliberately unruly behavior that was likely not the norm in the Elizabethan theatre. There are examples of audiences responding strongly to actors' performances, even ending performances and demanding alternative plays; but at the same time, plays of the period are heavily dependent on language and could only succeed with an audience that on the whole was inclined to listen.

The preparatory address to the audience was dropped for our main productions but the actors were still encouraged to engage the audience as much as possible from within the action of the play. This proved crucial to the plays' success. The actors' first-hand descriptions of this part of the experiment should make it clear that certain kinds of audience interaction are ingrained in the structure of the Queen's Men plays and that there are numerous and subtle ways in which this interaction can occur.


Group In a Group Discussion, the actors reveal how contact with the audience changed their performances and helped to bring the plays to life. Watch the Video.
Don Allison Don Allison talks in detail about his experience contacting the audience for the first time and the subtle ways in which they could influence his performance. Watch the Video.
Paul Hopkins For Paul Hopkins, treating the audience as a character with whom he could share his experience of the action was key to the success of the plays. Watch the Video.
Scott Clarkson Scott Clarkson speaks honestly of his fear when first confronting the audience and how the relationship with the audience changed in different venues. Watch the Video.
David Kynaston David Kynaston describes the interaction with the audience as an awkward learning experience for actor and audience. Watch the Video.
Peter Higginson Peter Higginson points out that an intimate relationship with the audience often occurs in modern theatre, and that the experience of this relationship in the SQM experiment depended on the nature of one's role. Watch the Video.