Barbara Fingerote: Super Audience

Backstage, ready to go on. Hook the curtain with my little finger, slowly, slowly pulling it back to catch a surreptitious glimpse of the audience tonight.

Sitting as they are in the dark, a distant presence; an amorphous blob, a mass of undifferentiated humanity. You either give them too much power (“They’ll hate me, I suck”) or none at all (“Who cares what they think, I’m an artist, they suck”). They’re hard to see.

Then: “Barbara’s here.”

Front row centre. If it’s the first preview, she’s there. And then she’s there again later in the run. And then again after that… She is pure audience. The Platonic Ideal of audience. She is our omniscient outsider. Our god’s eye view. Her mind is an evolving snapshot of the Toronto theatre scene at any given moment. When she sees a show, she is seeing it in the context of every other show that’s currently playing. She is disinterested in the sense that she doesn’t make her living in the theatre. She’s interested in the sense that she actually likes the theatre.

She sees everything. It makes me a little bit nervous.

Theatre is a strange sort of art form. It disappears as it is happening. And then on the last night it disappears forever. Ultimately it exists, if it exists at all, in the minds of the people who were involved in making it, and the people who saw it, and, beyond that, as a kind of unreality in the form of a fading rumour. There are relics (press clippings, posters and postcards, publicity shots) that can attest to the fact that the actors, designers, directors, and writers were there, if anyone decides to look.

But what about the audience?

I’m not sure why I made this video. Is this a record of Barbara? Is it for Barbara, or about her? Is it a glimpse, a primer, a tribute, a facet, a souvenir?

Whatever it is: here’s Barbara Fingerote: Super Audience. Enjoy!

12 Responses to “Barbara Fingerote: Super Audience”

  1. Oh Barbara! You inspire me so much. Your patronage and love of theatre are what help bring US back to life. I would love it if you would publish the speech you made at the Equity Honours night – that too was incredibly moving and motivating!
    Thank you! See you at Shaw!! Bea xo

  2. The wonderful Barbara Fingernote as captured by Rick Roberts. Maybe you have someone like her in your city? She attends almost every theatre performance in Toronto and volunteers at almost all the theatres. She donates to small theatre companies, she comes to see workshops and she just makes you proud to be part of the theatre community. Every time I see her I’m always so surprised that she remembers my name and what show she saw me in… How does she do that? Quite possibly the most lovely woman around. Thank you, Barbara.

  3. This is great. Barbara says there are two prime responsibilities for the audience. “We need to listen actively and give back energy.” Utterly brilliant. It reminds me of Brecht’s idea of Zuschaukunst (the art of spectating), the ability for an audience to look and, yes, feel, and think about and measure what they see onstage, to be open with all their faculties to an experience and to participate, not just consume. Barbara knows that she is part of the here-and-now of theatre and her active attention heightens its quality, sharpens the experience for everyone. She makes spectating an art. And Rick, this is simply beautiful film-making. Beautifully composed, edited. Christ, what can’t you do?

  4. Yay! Barbara for Mayor! She is so supportive and smart and generous – I always get the best feedback from her. And to have a mind and heart like that supporting our work is so encouraging. Beautiful work Rick! Barbara deserves a free ticket to everything!

  5. I adore this – it’s a really beautiful short doc! Barbara so well represented – great great great. Inspiring, Barbara and Rick, truly…

  6. I’m late to the party and just stumbled across this in the rabbit hole of Facebook. Barbara is an icon. To me she has always represented the best part of the audience. She wants you and the show to be good! I had the good fortune to have many conversations with Barbara and always some insight that was worth taking away. Kudos to her and Rick!

  7. Rick, such a wonderful tribute. I too just saw this for the first time today. Its perfect that Barbara has a moment in the theatre to talk and analyze her place in it all. Because she’s in it all! It’s a beautiful film, simple, clear and moving. Thanks for making it. I look forward to talking to Barbara about it. And yes, why do we make things?

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Written By

Rick lives in Toronto. He acts and writes and directs.