Sunday, September 21, 2008


Last night I performed Transfigurations-Transgressing Gender in the Bible at Imago Dei Metropolitan Community Church in Glen Mills, PA (about 15 miles outside of Philly).

I had a diverse audience of about 45 people -- college students, Quakers, straight, bi, trans and lesbian, young and old. I took my time with the piece maintaining a gentle meditative pace.

For the ending when I reveal the identity of the narrator, I had instructed the light tech to dim the lights. Then as the closing music swelled, I asked her to raise the lights to their brigthest intensity. With the music playing, I exited.

Always (up until last night) at this point the audience applauds, I wait 5 seconds then come out to take a bow. Last night I exited and then nothing. No one clapped. They sat quietly as the music played.

I stood back stage puzzled, baffled. Now what do I do? Wait? Go out anyway? And I wondered for a moment, Did they hate it? Did I confuse them? Offend them? Bore them into a coma?

After what felt like 5 minutes, I walked out onto the stage, and the audience erupted into enthusiastic applause, so much so that I had three curtain calls (I normally do two or ony one.)

So what happened? In talking to Kody and others in attendance they said they knew the play ended when I excited.

I felt the silence helped to settle the messages and images--many new and even startling for some. In many ways I felt pleased with the audience sitting in the stillness of that moment. As a performer I wonder if I did something differently this time. If so, what, and can I do it again? The whole thing puzzles and intrigues me.

Any thoughts?

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At 9:18 AM , Blogger paul said...

Wow Peterson,

That was a different response. Applause is such a traditional way to give feed back to a performer and the language between the performer and audience may not be very evolved. Silence is traditionally taken as disapproval, but then, you had a audience with Quakers in it and silence is a means of honoring with Quakers. My guess would be it was chemistry, not strictly you or the audience, but the magic of how it all came together. Not sure you could turn that into a formulae. It sounds like you stunned them into contemplative silence. cool.

At 1:20 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

well when i saw you do that play up at umass, i remember there was a moment of silence like that at the end of the play as well. the ending, i remember, was quite striking and left me wanting to sit quietly for a moment to digest it. i imagine what happened to you the other day was just the same thing............ only a longer pause!

At 5:31 PM , Blogger Liz Opp said...

Hey there--

The monthly meeting is just beginning to learn about/talk about trans issues... so maybe you and I could talk about you bringing this play to the Twin Cities next spring...?

Let's talk (or email...)

Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

At 12:23 PM , Blogger emmet the allisonian said...

i spent a semester of high school in a program where i hung out with the same 30 people in a dark room all day trying to gobble up all the theatre knowledge our teachers had to offer. they liked to tell us fantastic tales of life on the wicked stage. one of the two of them liked to talk about silence a lot (maybe he was a quaker? i never thought to ask). he told us one day about this kind of post-show, pre-applause silence happening in response to a few amazing shows he'd seen in his life. at first the idea terrified us, and a lot of us said so. then we didn't say anything for a while. realised we all wanted this to happen to us some day, even though we'd probably still be scared of it, in something somewhat bigger that kind of thrilling way we'd get a little skittish just after a really good show at a school when we had to stop being the people we made up together and come sit on the edge of the stage to answer the kids' questions as ourselves.

At 11:51 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe a bold proclamation stating "the end" would have prompted them to know applause time? How odd! I have only heard you, but you are a very talented person (well at least from what I hear voice character wise). Fantastic work and impressive and I enjoy it!


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