Wednesday, October 05, 2005

An Example of Helping the Audience to Appreciate Our Work

Thanks, Brian, for this description of Jones' model in action:

The Shakespeare Theatre in Washington DC has adopted a format similar to the one you describe. My parents have season membership to the theatre, and they are the only theatre that I make a real effort to attend anymore.

They generally do the following things:

1. A few months before a show they send out a glossy magazine called "Asides" which has essays written by the Dramaturg, prominent critics, the director, and the scenic and costume designers. Essays included topics such has the historical context of the play, the playwright's bio, the production history of the play, and each crew member talking about their process and production concept (in the early stages).The designers include their early sketches and other renderings. The director encloses his thought process as he tries to settle on his final concept. For instance, Michael Kahn is currently directing the Shakespeare Theatre's production of 'Othello,"starring Avery Brooks. In his essay, Kahn talks about his past experiences with the play and how they inform his choices in the current production.

2. The Cast and Crew Meet and Greet. Before the first "Official rehearsal. season members are invited to the theatre to meet the entire production team and cast. At this session, the director and designers all speak about the play and unveil their final concept to the audience. Thus, the audience is allowed to more fully understand the evolution of their approach. Then, the audience is allowed to stay for the first table read through. I have been to one of these, and they sometimes attract up to 200 people. Afterwards, the actors speak about their roles and then everyone fields questions from the audience.

3. During the rehearsal process, the theatre holds lectures for the general public about the play from other local scholars. For instance, I saw a production of Lady Windermere's Fan last season, and the week before the show opened they had lectures scheduled from local history and literature professors at Georgetown and George Washington.

4. After the play opens, the theatre designates several post-mortems where the audience is invited to air their thoughts and engage in discussion with the production personnel and actors. The result of all of this work is a much more educated and engaged audience. The audience is able to see first hand the whole arc of the play, from the conception to closing night. When I saw Lady Windermere's Fan, Michael Kahn went out of his way to talk to as many audience members as possible and hear their thoughts about the show.

This might not be a bad strategy for other theatre companies to consider.


1 comment:

Joshua said...

Thanks for visiting my site - I posted a follow up to your comment - just wanted to let you know -

I had a one act play on the same bill as Theresa Rebeck a couple years back in nyc, at the Barrow Group - she's cool - and I agree, a lot of my plays are written for friends of mine (who are pro actors) and I love writing for specific folks when I can . . .