This summer, I had the honor and the privilege to be a performer in an immersive theatre production in collaboration with The Denver Center and Third Rail Projects out of Brooklyn, NY. Each night 72 audience members would arrive and immerse themselves into a theatrical experience accompanied by performers, music and an elaborate set in a 1600 sq. ft. warehouse. The audience would often be divided, guided into rooms and regrouped throughout the 2 hour immersion. At one point during the production, each audience member would find themselves alone, in a space, with an actor.
It was in this space where I truly learned that first impressions are not necessarily truth. As an actor, I was given text to memorize and to deliver to each individual. My job was to make it conversational and to really connect with where the audience member was at. To keep it intimate and yet open enough for the person to have the opportunity to feel/receive the words for him/herself. For me, it was a practice in being present. In fact, after doing the math, I think I practiced being present with 670 audience members. And after connecting with mostly 670 strangers, here is what I observed in myself and in my audience:
1). We really don’t know what people are thinking or feeling. I can’t tell you how many people would step into the space with me and I would think, “oh great, blondie in the heels is going to be a real treat -OR- why the sour face? -OR- this guy aint havin’ this theatrical shit.” Whatever little judgement voices were in my head (and we all have them), I was surprised at how often I was completely wrong. Once I delivered my text and then was able to ask my first question, I was always surprised and delighted about how wrong I was and how open hearted most people are, if given the opportunity.
2). Connecting with someone is valuable. Slow it down, put your devices to the side and don’t just meet with someone, connect with them.
3). We all have stories. Stop and listen to someone else. If you have the tendency to be the talker, try suspending your need to fill the space and really offer it up to the person you are with so he/she can share their point of view or story. Giving the other person space is an easy opportunity to develop trust and long lasting relationships.
4). People rock! And we all deserve to be seen.
My heart was truly touched by this experience and I am eternally grateful. In my one-on-ones, I witnessed audience members who suffered loss, had bad days, or memories that were shared after being triggered by my words. I had drunk people and high people. I had young hipsters with tender hearts and elderly men with wisdom and warm smiles. I had a man with PTSD who lit up when I started talking. I learned that not all people think they are lucky and some only a little. That some people believe in fate and others believe you are responsible for creating your own path in life. Everyone has a story that’s pretty interesting only if we take the time to hear it.