Bourne With a Natural Talent for Being Audience-Oriented

I use the word “audience-oriented” a lot when I talk about content. For those who can’t distinguish between being audience-oriented and “pandering,” I refer you to Matthew Bourne. In his new interpretation of Sleeping Beauty:

“I’m thinking of the audience when I’m making work, always. I’m not just pleasing myself.” Like Jackie Chan, Bourne’s mindset includes his creativity AND the notion of an audience who will ultimately be the recipient of it. Self-referential, self-indulgent, closed-room “creativity” might work, but if it does, it’s more of a chance event or the result of a creator whose intuition about audience is so strong that it isn’t even unspoken. Very few people are that, and so it’s important to have the audience as a frame of reference.

For some people, this comes naturally. Bourne says about himself, “I think I’m just naturally like that, I naturally want to communicate, I want to give to audiences, I pick my dancers for that reason — to be generous with the audience.” But if an artist or programmer isn’t naturally that way, it’s OK because as long as you keep the audience in mind, maybe even give them an empty chair in the room, it’s not hard to remember they are there.

Being audience-oriented in many ways is the key to selling out. All the pricing and promotion in the world will not make a success of a show that an audience doesn’t want.

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