It’s going to happen. There is no way around the fact that someone is going to fall asleep during one of your performances (if not every time you perform). Don’t worry, I’m going to point out reasons why this occurs so that you don’t take it personally and ways you can deal with it that are both helpful and potentially horrifying.
“I’m Just So Tired.”
Yeah, well, so am I dipshit. I spent all day working on last minute promotions for this show as well as going over my lines and blocking my moves. Thing is, you don’t really know why this person is nodding off in the front row but I have some solid theories…
*The dude got dragged there by his spouse. “Wouldn’t a nice evening of theater be nice dear?” Grumble grumble… “I guess if it gets me some nookie later on.”
*They forgot to take a nap this afternoon. We don’t have a proper siesta in the U.S. so we should really be blaming the government for this.
*This guy falls asleep at everything: movies, lectures, luncheons, meetings with the President. He just doesn’t have the capacity to keep his head up for long periods of time. Most likely it’s a undiagnosed case of narcolepsy.
*You obviously are performing the worst possible production ever made and on top of that it’s really fucking boring. Good job!
It’s Not Your Fault Most Likely. Let’s Talk Payback.
So besides the last item it’s not really your fault but it can cause a lot of distraction especially if the guy starts snoring. So here are some tactics to deal with the situation. I feel that I must make the disclaimer that I don’t choose one of these methods over another. It really depends on the night, the mood of the piece and whether you have a hammer as one of your props.
*Completely avoid looking at them. It’s easy to become fascinated and then eventually completely frustrated that this person keeps doing the nod off. Head slowly falling forward into sleep and then the quick lurch back. This can take you out of the moment, make you lose your place and just cause further reasons to feel like shit. Just pretend they don’t exist.
*Make this person part of the production. If you are doing a piece that breaks the fourth wall aim all of the dialogue at them. Talk directly to them. Move closer, leave the stage, sit next to them. Keep going as if this is just part of the production. Forewarn your tech about this so that they can bring up the house lights. Whisper your lines into their ear as if they are a lover and gently nibble on their earlobe.
*Stop the production completely. Use the invisible remote control that you always have at your disposal. Just press pause and stare at them until the audience realizes what you’re doing and the room fills with an uncomfortable silence. Then slowly move as close as you can to sleeping beauty and clap your hands violently together. When they wake up having wet themselves ask loudly “Did you have a good nap!!?”
Appreciating Your Audience
It’s imperative that you appreciate your audience and you really can’t help if they conk out during your show. It happens. Just know that you have options. Really effective and strategic options.