Wednesday evening A Suitcase of Methods went to Scala Svendborg to the live transmission of Carl Maria von Webers Der Freischütz staged by Kasper Holten at The Royal Danish Opera, Copenhagen. We wanted to learn more about the audience experience of the performance – was it radically different from experiencing it at the venue. All though we ran into technical troubles during the transmission we met a very enthusiastic audience. And the owners of the cinema had transformed the experience into some thing special: We entered the cinema with a glass of white wine and a velvet ambience.
Photo: Diana Lindhardt
Sunday evening A Suitcase of Methods invited 10 audiences for a walk in Copenhagen just after the opera Der Freischutz by Carl Maria von Weber.
Inspired by the previous interviews with visitors and audiences at The Royal Danish Theatre A Suitcase of Methods are now focusing on the opera Der Freischutz by Carl Maria von Weber staged by Kasper Holten. It is not only played at the Opera but also live transmitted to more than 50 cinemas in Denmark the 25th of November.
Therefore we have designed four different research set-ups: We are testing the framing of the focus group in order to get knowledge about their actual experience at the Opera.
The three focus group interviews based on the experience in the Opera has three different settings: 1) Outside the institution 2) in the auditorium/at the stage and 3) in an ordinary meeting room at the Opera. All are taking place just after the performance.
The fourth audience research setup differs: it takes place after the live transmission of the opera in the foyer at the cinema Scala Svendborg.
Does the framing really matter when it comes to audience conversations? And how much does it matter?
We expect the report based on this study to be accessible in December.
In the article Researching Audiences through Walking Fieldwork published in may 2015 in Participations Journal of Audience and receptions Studies, independent researcher Uwe Gröschel introduces an interesting approach to investigation of the audience experiences of an interactive performance installation People in Glass Cases Shouldn’t Throw Stones by Contact Young Actor’s Company at Manchester Museum. Due to the interactive design the audiences are led through the different galleries in the museum. Afterwards he let a group of audiences walk through the galleries one more time reflecting in pairs upon their personal experience with the experience of the interactive performance installation. The method is named Walking Fieldwork and was originally introduced by sociologist Andrew Irving. By letting the audience re-experience the different physical settings the hypothesis is that the embodied memories would be accessible. In the recent study the method was found to highlight the inter-personal and relational aspects of research participants’ experiences.
In our latest report, Report #2 Capturing the Audience Response – Walking, Talking and Drawing the Experienced Relevance of Performing Arts, we explored how a walk and talk in pairs out side the theatre institution was helpful in order to get audience responses. Gröschel’s research shows that a re-framing of the actual experience might be helpful in order to evoke the memory and the senses. Now our question in A Suitcase of Methods is: How can we transform this interesting approach of grasping audience response developed for an interactive performance installation into a more traditional set-up where the audiences are seated in an auditorium?
A report by A Suitcase of Methods based on 17 audience interviews after Beckett’s play All That Falls staged at Takkelloftet, The Opera, Copenhagen, August 2015.
Does it matter if we are inside or far away from the theatre institution when we conduct audience research interviews? This is a report on an experiment working with the framing of the focus group interview. It is our impression and experience that audiences often tend to want to give a good answer. They might have the notion that the theatre institution is seeking a specific answer from them, and that there is a correct answer to a very personal and complicated question. Is it possible to collect a different sort of answer if we change the setting? What happens if we replace the large group discussion with elements such as one-to-one dialogue, group discussions and space for individual reflections that are drawn on paper instead of spoken?
Read report #2: Capturing the Audience Response – Walking, Talking and Drawing the Experienced Relevance of Performing Arts by A Suitcase of Methods
A minor report based on open conversations with visitors in the recreational area at The Playhouse, Copenhagen.
During the month of July 2015 Nina Gram, Ph.D. initiated 33 interviews with one or more visitors at The Playhouse’s cozy outdoor space called “The Bridge Deck” at the Copenhagen harbor front. In total she came to speak with 64 persons aged 10 to 71 years. The ambition was to learn more about the visitors at the Royal Danish Theatre who are using the facilities around the stages such as restaurants and cafés but not necessarily frequenting the performing arts. What is their perception of The Royal Danish Theatre?
Read report #1 : From Visitor to Audience by A Suitcase of Methods
Dr. Ben Walmsley, researcher in Arts Management and Cultural Policy in the School of Performance and Cultural Industries at the University of Leeds, proposes an interesting approach to theatre management and audience research in the article ”Whose value is it anyway? A neo-institutionalist approach to articulating and evaluating artistic value” published in Journal of Arts and Communities, 4 (3) in 2013. Walmsley gives not only a historical overview into the field of cultural management but he also proposes a new direction for arts managing where the audience experience becomes core. If we don’t know why people go to the theatre or the performing arts and what they experience, we can only base our arguments about the special value of the artistic experiences on cultural assumptions and management arguments from outside the performing arts where value is understood as a number.
Through 34 semi structured in-depth interviews on the value of theatre with audiences from Australia and The United Kingdom he shows how it is possible to get valuable information from your audience.
If you want to get inspiration for an interview frame for audience research or get arguments why a qualitative approach to audience research and art management is needed just follow this link and be enlightened.