Imagine that you are working on a five thousand piece jigsaw puzzle. You haven’t been able to eat at your kitchen table for weeks because it has been covered with these fiddly little bits of cardboard. There have been untold hours of work since you found that first corner piece and slowly built the edge of the puzzle. You enlisted friends and family members to help with the vast swaths of undifferentiated blue sky. Finally, it is about to be completed. You go to grab the final piece to slot into the middle of the puzzle and…
It’s not there.
Few things aggravate like a missing puzzle piece. All of your work cannot reach its conclusion. No matter how you look at your puzzle, you see that blank spot where the piece should be. You try to come to terms with it, but you know in your heart that it’s not the same without that final piece.
But then, miraculously, you find the final piece on the floor. You slide that final piece into the puzzle, and the unfinished work transforms into something magical. That final piece has the power to render your puzzle a beautiful success, and without it, the puzzle will always feel unfinished.
Now, by this point you are probably wondering why I am talking about jigsaw puzzles on the McCarter Theatre blog. Well, the first show of McCarter’s season, Ten Cents A Dance, had its first preview two weeks ago. It taught me, once again, that the audience is the final, crucial jigsaw piece. No matter how brilliant the lighting, how famous the actors, or how big the budget, theater is about the interaction of the performer and the audience member. It exists not on stage, but in the space between the stage and the audience. Without the audience, a play is unfinished, just like the jigsaw puzzle. The audience has the power to transform the show into a beautiful success, and I saw that transformation for Ten Cents A Dance. The surprises of where and how they reacted imbued the show with a life it could never have without that final piece of the puzzle.
Posted by Daniel Tobin, Directing/Producing Intern at McCarter Theatre