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Communications & Media
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Theatre represents one of the dramatic art of communication which provides individuals with a more effective way of expressing themselves within everyday situations. Communication within the theatrical realm provides a mode of exchanging important information either verbally, through writing, or through the use of a particular medium. Theatre is one of the modes that incorporate various mankind's five senses, including hearing, taste, smell, touch, and sight, regulating principles (RP), and field of reference in the delivery of information to the general public (Coppieters, 1981 p.43). It is noteworthy that theatre is usually very informative since it entails sharing of experiences between the actors and their audiences since actors share their experiences while the spectators become expressive about the shared experiences (Karmakar, 2013 p.1). This notion portrays theatre as being important as an educative aspect in regard to mass education.
The audience drives every facet of creating a theatrical presentation. Initially, the audience is tasked with directing the play's or performance's substance (Gianakaris et al., 1992). An example of this scenario is whereby if a performer walks onto the stage and delivers a comedic line, but the audience does not laugh? The actors receive messages on how their performance is obtained based on how the audience reacts. Thus, silence during a theatrical performance would indicate to the actors that the audience does not see or agree with the humor being conveyed for a variety of reasons. The audience also plays a role in influencing other decisions involving a large volume of the community members such as political and feminist movements. Thus, producers, for example, will think about their target demographic when casting. They consider if the actor is right for the job and whether certain actresses or actors will draw a crowd to the performance. Once the audience is seated within the same space as the performers, their function as customers is completed hence breaking the wall between the performers and the actors created through the different media platforms.
Additionally, theatre is also a powerful tool in creating awareness about contemporary issues within the society, such as human rights and health issues among a specific segment in the society. However, the concept of theatre cannot exist without a combination of both performer and spectators or the audience since theater happens whenever the two parties meet and come together in time and space. Physical presence is the only thing that separates the concept of theater and other forms of media such as the internet, television, and photography, hence why theater is commonly considered the breathing art form. This notion facilitates the development of a relationship between actors and the audiences, which is created through dialogue during performances (Popovici, 1984 p.114).
This paper analyzes the roles played by spectators in the theatrical communication process by looking at some of their impact on the content delivered through theatrical works as a form of communication between the audience and the actors. Spectators play a central role in impacting the mode of delivery and the nature of the transmission of the theatrical performances.
Active Participation
The spectators in a theatrical performance play an integral role within the performance. The spectators usually participate in the plays, which is a strategy commonly used by actors to elicit improved audience engagement in the performances. An example of this role is expressed in the audience's participation in Osofisan's Plays, whereby the performance is turned into a mechanical activity. The transformation occurs through the inclusion of the audience by Osofisan as full participants, for example. Additionally, Osofisan solicits the participation of the audience Twingle-Twangle, a Twinning Tayle where the audience is asked to determine the one who is victorious between Taye and Kehinde at the end of their adventures (Efakponana, 2009 p.84). Apart from Osafisan strategies, other strategies used in engaging the participants involves transference to play area whereby actors move through the audience and lead them to the main performance areas within the stage (Coppieters, 1981 p.38). This example exhibits the role of the spectators in modern theatrical performances as active members whereby they are directly involved in the performance through the invitation to aid in the delivery of the performances as integral audiences. As a result, any form of illusions about the actions taking place on the stage is usually removed while the audience is simultaneously engaged in a rational conceptualization of the events being depicted within the theatrical performance. All these qualities and strategies are usually aimed at taking the audience past the face value of actions which is achieved through an indepth analysis of the prevailing events within the theatrical plays. Additionally, active participation by the audience is also meant to demystify the actions of the actors by separating the actors' personalities, including the actor-self and actor-character.
Apart from participation as role players, this audience also plays an important part in taking part in modern African dramatic theater, including songs and music. Within theatrical performance, songs are extensively used to stir up the memory and emotions of the audience within the plays, as well as developing an effective rapport between the actors and the audience. An example of the role of the audience through participation in songs includes Twingle-Twangle and Twinning Tayle, whereby refrains are inserted to enable the participation of the audience in those particular songs (Abubakar, 2014 p.182). The refrains are particularly placed before and after the plays; for example, the song Vagabond Minstrels and Esu, which, apart from providing the audience with an avenue for actively participating in the plays, also provides an insight into the main themes of the play, including greed, insensitivity of rich, and corruption (Abubakar, 2014 p.182). This role increases the audience's comprehension of the main themes exhibited within the play by seeing themselves as part of the play since they are involved both at a physical and mental level within the play.
Role as an interpreter
The production and reception theory proposed by Susan Bennet provides one of the most effective platforms for dissecting the role of spectators in the theatrical communication process. The theory analyzes the semiotic relationship between the audience and the aspect of theatrical production whereby she investigates the process through which meaning is usually created and subsequently communicated to the audience. According to Bennett (1997 p.10), theatre is best studied as a cultural phenomenon mainly because of its capacity to incorporate several cultures in participation in active roles within theatrical performances. This cultural aspect of the audience is further derived by Wolff, who points out that contemporary societies play an active role in providing recognition to works of art and aesthetics, meaning that theatre is inseparable from the aspects of culture and which accommodates those particular works (Chaudhuri, 1984 p.286).
Additionally, since the theatrical performances are normally developed based on the values and ideas upheld by an artist, it makes the relationship between the role of the audience stronger since the ideas of the artists are shaped by the socially constructed and mediated cultural conventions of style, genre, language, and aesthetic vocabularies (Bennet, 1990 p.156). Thus, the main relationship can be described as the mediation between the socially constructed conventions, which mainly affects the artists' types and mode of presentation during the development of the different concepts.
Thus, the role of the audience as the anchor of cultural entities within a society can be viewed as the main cultural marker in endorsing various types and forms of theatrical performances within a particular society hence impacting the process through which an idea for a theatrical performance is formulated. It is noteworthy that art aims at creating a human connection hence the reason why the actors are often forced to develop a theatrical performance that emulates cultural aspects or contemporary issues within the society in which the art form is being presented.
The term "reception" is a bit of a misnomer, and modern critical writing regarding theater on the subject prefers names like "spectator theory." The first issue to stress is that receipt is likely to question some concepts people learned in school – and which still pervade many broad assumptions about what books, plays, and even performances are "about." Despite the wide range of literary studies which attempt to provide explanations and records of what specific plays, novels, or poems may mean, contemporary thinking challenges such claims by asserting that there is no meaning in performance, novel, poem, or play text that can be directly ‘received' by the reader or audience. There is no inherent significance in the marks on the paper, the words said on stage, or the activity watched - unless spectators comprehend the signs, of course (Coppieters, 1981 p.37). This aspect is investigated by looking at the written word, which has been given enormous imp...

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