I attended a couple of performances in the past month, one an afro-pop concert (Angelique Kidjo at the Mesa Center for the Arts), and the other was a live theater performance (the SITI Company's Under Construction. Dissimilar though these events were, they had one thing in common. At both shows the audience was encouraged to join the performers onstage. At the concert about a fifth of the audience went up there, which is no mean feat considering this was a sold-out 500-seater. Seeing all ages and all races dancing and laughing together in one place was a very moving experience. I made a mental note of rhe joy that was concentrated into that moment.
So when a couple of weeks later I went to the theater, this moment was recalled when, at the very end of their very fine performance, the members of the cast invited the entire (!) audience up on stage to interact with the stage props. Most if not all did. It wasn't a 'joyful' thing in the same sense that the concert was, but it was still a lovely interaction between art and audience. My part in this gentle moshpit happening (it was very sixties): I circled a few times, counterclockwise, on the outer rim of this galaxy of people, looking at the various fotografs and assorted bits of americana strewn about the stage. One of the actors had made a cool piece with cigarette butts standing on their tips. I wanted to take one of the cigarettes and give it for Rob to smoke, and thus blur the frame between art and life further. Would have been cool, but I didn't dare. I mean, they're not my cigarettes, y'know? Two of the actors were playing guitars and singing the Simon and Garfunkel song, "America" (. . . "let us be lovers. we'll marry our fortunes together . . ." Every time I came to the place on the stage they were standing, I found the same guy, middle-aged, balding, resplendently joyful, right there next to them, singing along with abandon. He knew all the words and the harmonies. I couldn't help picturing him as the guy in the other song . . . "Hello lamppost . . . whatcha knowin? . . . I';ve come to watch the flowers growin . . . ain'tcha got no rhymes for me? . . . doo doo ta too dah feeling groovyyyyy . . . ."
On the flip side of allowing for audience participation . . .
Peter Gabriel, who used to allow himself to be carried on his back over the audience at the front of the stage during all his concerts, stopped doing this because he was bitten one night.
All it takes is just one maladjusted jerk.