Every concert I've attended will have the performer come out and yell, "How's everyone doing tonight?" The crowd will roar their enthusiasm. This will happen throughout the show, same question, same response. One night I was at an event, and the MC took the stage with the prerequisite "How's everyone doing tonight?" but nobody answered. I quickly responded, "I'm fine. Thank you for asking." Luckily, the audience, along with the gentleman on stage, laughed. It broke the awkward tension and reset the mood from quiet to more enthusiastic.
I understand the effort and responsibility it takes to pump up a room full of people. High energy is essential for fueling players as well as the audience. The feedback of applause, laughter, or a group gasp, helps everyone involved stay upbeat to deliver their best work. I remember a performance of The NutCracker I saw while chaperoning a school trip. The kids were in awe of the performers, and they showed their appreciation by clapping throughout the show. At one point, three dancers had appeared; as they leaped and twirled, the students were shouting their approval. The smiles on these dancers were so big; the memory of it has stayed with me.
It's nearly impossible to perform to a group and be met with silence. I would compare it to having a conversation with someone and not get any response to what I'm saying. So I would take the cue to stop talking and walk away.
Of course, I've sat through disappointing shows, but I would never heckle or decide to take out my phone and stare at it instead. Yet, I've seen people do this, and I think it's the height of rudeness. Not every act will garner great reviews, but as audience members, we should still show respect.
I've had to sit through many boring presentations and forced myself to look interested. That's what a professional does. If asked my opinion, I would give constructive criticism. Otherwise, I wouldn't say anything negative. Any form of stage time is daunting, and I want to encourage everyone who steps up to the challenge.
More venues are opening at limited capacities, but I think we'll still have Zoom meetings and virtual shows. My suggestion, if the option to turn your camera on is available, turn it on. This helps the presenter get some feedback and support. Switch from gallery view to speaker view, and you won't be distracted by watching yourself or others.
Being a supportive audience member is crucial for an actors' confidence. If you're the one called on or asked to assist in a demonstration, be excited and help out. I know not everyone wants to be in the spotlight, but something about you caught their attention. Put your worries aside, and be part of the show. You might find it fun or at least an interesting experience.
Keep the excitement level up, whether it's online or in an actual theatre. Not only will you feel good, but you'll help everyone involved have a positive experience. The best part, you'll be left with a wonderful memory of the event.