I think the story of Nigel in Dr. Fletcher's blog is sad. Period, full stop. (Read Blog HERE). It is not a beautiful story of love, but rather a story of desperation without reward of failure or success. Knowing you have failed, though disappointing, is at least some sort of result that can be observed and improved upon. The fact that Nigel gets no response from a statue, yet continues to attempt to love the object is depressing.
Looking back at Anne Bogart's chapter "Making Art in an Unpredictable World" from And Then, You Act, she reflects on how directors use attention:
"Listening is a basic ingredient of attention, and it can be learned and practiced. Listening is fueled by interest and curiosity. It is a discipline and an action in the world, and the results are nearly magical. Hearing can restore. To be heard, really heard by another person, is to be healed. (pp. 59)
In regard to Nigel, he doesn't implement any sense of listening or "gauging the room" as I many would say. The non-responsive statue bird should indicate that Nigel is not being successful in their attempts to woo, disinterest, or simply failure. But the fact that he dies having given all his love and devotion to a creature that will not respond to him shows a lack of listening by Nigel. His audience never shows interest. This is a social cue to back off and stop, but the bird never relents and that is sad to me.
A situation I see all the time, is the dance between when actors live truthfully in the imaginary circumstances of a play and the audience responds generously to the exchange of truthful storytelling. On the other hand, I have also seen many performances where some of the actors push, trying hard to cause a reaction from the audience (laugh, gasp, cry, scream, etc.), and it fails. A funny example of this is in the sitcom How I Met Your Mother. Marshal is trying to help Barney write his vows for his wedding and repeatedly makes puns with the word "vow" that he doesn't get reactions from, so he repeats it with no response still. Eventually, his wife Lily has to tell him that they are just not enjoying them and he stops, unsuccessful and unhappy with the response.
I think it matters in regard to being an artist. A skilled actor is not purposefully a manipulator. Making an audience laugh, cry, or react in any specific manner is and should be seen as a by-product of living truthfully under imaginary circumstances, not the goal. The actors should learn to trust the text, use the text, and allow the text to drive the action of the story rather than trying to "put their own spin on the story" or attempting to "invent something new and exciting." Performers can do this without pushing or trying to aim for these goals by their pursuit of objectives and use of actions to tell the story and live int he world of the play. The reactions will come as a by-product of this kind of truthful storytelling. Regardless, we as actors must commit to the story and not give any attention to the audience reaction aside from being able to pause if there is a laugh or scream. The art of finding a balance of expecting and not expecting is one of the challenging parts of being a skilled performer.