The Audible Experience at Theatre Venues

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To be able to hear what is said at a theatre venue is important to the entire experience. According to a survey from April 2015 by Kbht – a collaboration of five Copenhagen based theatres – 85 % of the respondents named the acoustic in the theatre to be the most important surrounding feature for a good experience. In one of our previous studies we talked with audience members who would mention the lack of being able to hear what was said. But we discovered that ’not being able to hear’ might be an expression for more than acoustic features – in this case it was about codes such as being unsecure about the ability to understand or decipher the experience. When ‘A Suitcase of Methods’ was contacted by a group of sound designers and audio engineers who wanted to measure the acoustics at different venues we have been very interested in following the project. During the month of August the group have conducted tests on speech-intelligebility, impulse-response and acoustic energy measurements on acoustic and electro acoustic speech signals as well as the teleloop system at two of the venues at the Royal Danish Theatre. The ambition is to combine the acoustic measurements with audience tests. Today the last pre-test was conducted. We are looking forward to learn more from the group.

Emotional relations on Facebook

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After a busy week with The TantLab crew we have tested three different approaches to tracking emotional relations on FB through network analysis. We went from evidencing authenticity, tracking the different patterns between posts and events on FB – to a broader visualization of clusters of cultural activities based on posts on FB. Thanks to the large group of students who took off an entire week to work together in the lab – and to the research team from TantLab: Anders Koed, Anders Kristian Munk, Mette Abildgaard & from Medialab ScencesPo, Paris: Mathieu Jacomy. Although it is far from all the population who is on FB, the network analysis seems to be an interesting tool for testing how the theatre is placed in the cultural sphere of FB.

Video recordings and audience conversations

‘The performance is the beginning of a longer experience. It is the scorpion’s bite, which makes one dance. The dance does not stop when one leaves the theatre’
Eugenio Barba

How can video recordings be used to explore audience perception of performing arts? Three young theatre scholars conducted an experiment on them selves and two fellow students in May 2016 after watching the ballet ‘Don Quixote’ at The Royal Danish Theatre. The participants filmed what reminded them of the performance in short 30 s. takes. Three days after they met and talked about their experience aiming to keep the individual experience intact and at the same time discuss and reflect on the art experience in a group.

A Suitcase of Methods have been collaborating with a group of young MA students from University of Copenhagen, Department of Arts and Cultural Study who followed the course ’Audience Relations’ conducted by associate professor Karen Vedel. Read the rapport here

Experience and Memory

Natascha Thiara Rydvald

Photo: Natascha Thiara Rydvald

What is the relation between experience, memory and time? And how does an audience verbalize their experience with classical music? These questions have been the starting point for this report by ‘A Suitcase of Methods’. In a society where we store knowledge in growing archives and at the same time are living at a fast pace with a tendency to short memories, these questions become important. In response to a symphonic concert with The Royal Danish Orchestra presenting oeuvres of the French composers Henri Dutillieux and Maurice Ravel the 14th of May 2016 at The Royal Danish Opera, two focus groups were conducted. The first was held immediately after the experience i.e. in the evening. The second focus group was held in the afternoon five days after the concert. We asked two basic questions during the conversations: ‘Describe your experience today’ and ‘name your first experience memorable experience with performing arts’.

Read the entire Report #4: Experience and Memory.

Location and Conversation

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What is the ideal space for audience conversations after a performance if you want to know something about how your audience experiences the relevance of performing arts?

‘A Suitcase of Methods’ has conducted a study about how the location affects the conversation when the audience articulates their impression of the art experience. After the romantic opera Der Ferischutz at the opera house in Copenhagen November 2015, we conducted three focus group interviews and tested three different settings: the meeting room, the auditorium and a walk outside the venue. There seems to be a connection between the setting and the topics of conversation.

Read about the study in the report #3 Location and Conversation. A report based on audience interviews after Carl Maria von Webers “Der Freischütz”, staged at The Royal Danish Opera, Copenhagen, November 2015

Psychophysiological measurements

Lene Heiselberg PhD

What can biometric data add to the analysis of audience response? Quite a lot if you ask Lene Heiselberg, who just earned her title as PhD from Aalborg University, Department of Communication and Psychology. By combining self-reporting methods with skin conductance measurements, she is able to reveal and capture the unconscious emotional reactions of the audience during TV transmissions and combine those measurements with the audience’s reflections afterwards. This gives an interesting insight to the emotional responses to TV series that are often difficult for an audience to articulate.

Heiselberg is employed as senior researcher at the Danish Broadcast Corporation. Through her academic work Heiselberg aims to open up the field of psychophysiological measurements in audience studies toward a broader field.

Although ‘A Suitcase of Methods’ is focusing on performing arts, e.g. live art, we are always keen to get inspiration and methodological knowledge from other fields of research. Now the next step is to find out how the methods proposed by Heiselberg can be translated into our field.

The dissertation is in Danish, but the summary is written in English: Seerevaluering af emotionelle oplevelser i fiktionsserier

Survey about the experience with performing arts

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A Suitcase of Methods is collaborating with the theatre GROB located in Copenhagen on the development of a survey design that has to be tested during the next two weeks. The aim is to test how a 10 minutes one-act play introducing new young playwrights just before the main performance of the evening affects the perception of the entire evening.

We have suggest that

  • The scale used to rate the experience is numbered from 0-10 in order to give a more intuitive response. When you give your audience the possibility to choose between 5 descriptive categories, they will often tend to seek the middle.
  • The actual experience is described in three words and how they would have liked the evening to be – in order to let the audience use their own language and compare between expectations and actual experience.
  • That you not only ask to the experience with the performance but also ask how the entire evening was in order to let the audience separate between what happened inside and outside the auditorium.

We are looking forward to present the results of the survey in collaboration with GROB.

Audience feedback during the creation of a production

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How is it possible to integrate audience feedback during the creation of a production? Anna Lawaetz from A Suitcase of Methods has been interviewing audience researcher Lene Heiselberg from the Danish Broadcasting Corporation (DR), producer Thomas Heinesen from Nordisk Film Production and stage director and choreographer Jørgen Carlslund from the children and youth company ZeBU about their use of audience feedback in creation of a program, a film or a theatre play. Heinesen, Carlslund and Heiselberg have extensive experience in using audience feedback in the creative phase of a production. Though theatre, film and radio/television are very different in their form, they all engage with an audience. This article provides an insight into the methods applied across these art forms. The aim is to inspire practitioners who want to work with audience response before the show goes on.

Read the article: Ensuring the experienced relevance – A study on audience feedback during the creative process in film-, television- and children/youth theatre productions

Read a Danish version of the article here: Det er meget flot. Men det er ikke for sådan nogen som os. Publikumsinddragelse i den kreative proces i teater, film, TV og radio