The Thrill of Connection: Battlefield and A Night with Janis Joplin

By Elspeth Sweatman

As your fellow actor walks offstage, you turn and peer past the blinding stage lights. You take a breath, step forward, and do one of the most dangerous and thrilling things possible in theater: tear down the fourth wall and talk to the audience.

Artwork for Battlefield and A Night with Janis Joplin.
For Battlefield director Peter Brook, the connection between an actor and the audience is what theater is about. It has been the driving force behind his theatrical works for the past 40 years. It is what makes his plays work on a blanket on the streets of an African village, in his crumbling theater in Paris, and in San Francisco’s Geary Theater.

“We have performed for many different kinds of audiences on different continents with different cultures,” says Battlefield actor Carole Karemera. “What people have told us is that they enjoyed the shared moment, that they felt they had an intimate relationship with the text and with us.”

The same intimacy between performer and audience is also at the heart of the next show to play The Geary. In A Night with Janis Joplin, which runs June 7–July 2, Joplin tells a story about a female opera singer who receives a marriage proposal from an audience member. “She took him backstage after she had sung a real triumph, with all the people applauding for her, man,” says Joplin. “They were going crazy. That audience reaction blew her mind. And she asked him, ‘Do you think you could give me that?’”

Battlefield runs through May 21 and A Night with Janis Joplin runs June 7–July 2 at The Geary Theater. Click here to purchase tickets through our website. Want to learn more about the creation of these two plays? Click here to purchase Words on Plays, A.C.T.'s in-depth performance guide series.

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