Lest there be any doubt that the WWS is more factory than theatre, the latest directive from management is that the show must finish in 90 minutes. So I kept a ruthlessly rapid pace throughout both shows last night, bulldozing through moments where I normally allowed slight pause for theatrical drama, clipping the end of my fellow actor's lines, ignoring interruptions where improvisation is called for, not waiting for audience applause to die down before delivering text, and cutting words from my own text where possible. With the aid of the other actors, we delivered the show in 90 minutes the first seance and 87 minutes the second.
Management was perfectly tickled.
Pace is important, to be sure. Too often actors overindulge in their own stretched out moments of drama, or confusion, and the show slows to a crawl. Or. Stop.
But to ignore the audience and the occasional special moments of improvisation makes the show impersonal and can undermine the credibility of the characters, in my view. Allowing for special moments yet keeping a good pace is not easy. It's an art that not everyone can master. Hence, I imagine, a blanket solution for all to a problem that belongs to a select few individuals. (Me, of course, not one of them. I can't be to blame - this is my blog!) Perhaps one day we'll be able to relax again and respond to the audience in a natural way that allows each show to be individual and special, and builds the credibility of the characters and the moment, without being slave to an arbitrary time limit.