Live Studio Audience

Me Reading at ASFS

When I was a kid, television shows routinely had laugh tracks, a holdover, I guess, from the days when there were live studio audiences.  Being the sort of person who likes to lose herself in a show or story, I always found these disconcerting.  I mean, this was supposed to be a “real” situation, not a stage show, so who was laughing, and why didn’t the characters react?

Last week, I gave my first live reading since 2019, for the Albuquerque Science Fiction Society.   Since I’d read from the opening of Library of the Sapphire Wind for several virtual cons, including last year’s Bubonicon, I decided to read from a later section: the stealing of Slicewind.

Suddenly, I have a whole new appreciation for that live audience experience.  I’ve done a lot of live readings in my life, going back to when I taught college English, and even before that to when I read to younger siblings or kids I was babysitting.

Readings via Zoom were my first experience with reading to an audience I couldn’t hear.  It was, to say the least, disconcerting, because I couldn’t tell if they were “with” me or not.

Getting a feel for audience reaction doesn’t just involve the obvious things, like someone laughing at what I hoped would be a funny line.  It’s something more.  Even a reading of a serious passage gets a reaction from the audience, even if—maybe especially if—no one makes a sound.

I recently read a mystery novel titled The Broken Vase that featured a violinist “losing” his audience.  The author, Rex Stout, captured how little things—shuffling feet, turning of pages in a program book, restless motion—indicated that the audience (which politely kept its silence, as would be expected for such a performance at that date) was confused and underwhelmed.  These days, I suppose, we’d add peering into the omnipresent phone.

My pleasure at reading for ASFS gave me a whole new appreciation for the readers of audiobooks.  Many of these are actors, and would be accustomed to some interaction with an audience.  Sitting in a soundproofed studio must be as disconcerting for them as reading to a muted Zoom group was for me.

So, let’s hear it for the live studio audience!

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One Response to “Live Studio Audience”

  1. Louis Robinson Says:

    I’m all in favour of live studio audiences.

    In fact, my mind has been boggling at the thought of there being any other sort of studio audience!

    Not only is there the problem of rendering the audience into some other state – for one thing, who would attend knowing that one was going to become part of, for example, a dead studio audience – but it would have to have deleterious effects on the performance of cast and crew. At least, I hope it would!

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