Never Look Them In The Eye!

by Mary Katherine Smith-Gall

This week we’re working on FOCUS in Parkway Playhouse Junior rehearsals. On Monday, students learned specifically why not to look at the adjudicators and audience members during their 15 minute performance. To accomplish this, I made a list of all the students I made eye contact with during the run.

I know it’s hard for students not to look at me (especially when they’ve worked so hard to gain my approval and follow my direction), but it’s really important for our Atlanta Junior Theater Festival performance. It’s going to be a different performance experience than our Burnsville performance, without stage lights in the performers’ faces blinding them and with the audience and adjudicators sitting just a few feet away. Check out the room and lighting from last year and you’ll see what I mean.

Parkway Playhouse Junior students perform a selected 15 minutes from Disney's Mulan, Jr. at the 2014 Junior Theater Festival.
Parkway Playhouse Junior students perform a selected 15 minutes from Disney’s Mulan, Jr. at the 2014 Junior Theater Festival.

As you can see, this is a much more intimate performance space than we’re used to.

Here are the top 5 reasons why you shouldn’t make eye contact with your audience during a performance:

  • because I said so (haha!)
  • it shows a lack of focus and can appear that the performer is uncomfortable
  • it may cause the audience to feel uncomfortable, break eye contact, look away, and miss part of the performance
  • it reminds the audience that they are watching a play by taking them out of the scene in which they were otherwise engrossed
  • it shows you’re not 100% committed to your character because you’ve acknowledged an audience outside the scene

Stay tuned these next couple weeks for other Junior Theater Festival rehearsal tips and updates!


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Parkway Playhouse, located in the Appalachian town of Burnsville, NC, is a haven of theatre talent. While people come to the mountains to get away, Parkway Playhouse is a natural gathering place to connect. Likewise, we are an extension of traditional mountain talents: singing, dancing, and, foremost, storytelling. By giving rise to energetic new voices and through a wide variety of plays and musicals, we invite our audience into experiences that are thought-provoking, adventurous, and entertaining. Together we reimagine the world in every live performance, creating dynamic conversations that last far beyond the curtain call. This blog is will feature stories, helpful information, insight and features about the performances.

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