In today's NYT, under the headline "Enter Stage Right: Live Advertisements," Campbell Robertson writes: "Seven fifty-five p.m. A moment, in theater, of whispered anticipation, of studying Playbills, of turning off cellphones. And a perfect time, before a performance of "Stomp" at the Orpheum Theater in the East Village last night, for a commercial. "Give me a picture of the London scene," said an actress in the audience on her cellphone, supposedly talking to her daughter in London on the eve of her own trip there. No, to answer your question, there is nothing sacred."
But after my initial kneejerk reaction, I wondered: why not? Theatre isn't church, as much as we often talk about it as if it were. We're used to ads before films -- what makes us so damned special? Hell, why not use this time to promote other theatre, sort of like Amazon does with its recommendations for other books. "If you like this play, you'd also like..." and then pitch some Off-Off Broadway production. This could be the theatrical version of the Long Tail in action, and actually be a way for theatres to support each other. Sure, we could put it in the program, but why when, as Ken Kelling (the communications dfirector of the Visit London program) said, "They're a captive audience. They can't switch channels or change over or walk out once the thing is started." Exactly. To hell with our purity, these are desperate times. Consider the possibilities!