Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
There have been a number of discussions recently on other theatre-related blogs about the nature of “preview” performances, and what constitutes etiquette both on the part of the audience member (be they unaffiliated casual patron or professional critic) and the part of the producing company. The nutshell of the discussion involves (a) whether or not it is “fair” for audience to offer any sort of serious criticism of a preview performance, ie, say anything more than “I liked it” or “I did not like it,” and (b) whether or not the theater company should itself make concessions to audience, such as discount tickets or otherwise.
The assumed character of a preview, then, is a show that’s just on the cusp of being able to open…that what the rehearsals have been missing is a “live fire” situation, with audience constituting the final part of the process.
Contraption had previews on Thursday and Friday night. For our part, the Neo-Futurists referred to these performances as previews in most of our marketing, offered several complimentary tickets to groups and associates, and offered “Pay-What-You-Can” tickets to the general public.
Before actually going through preview performances, I had brazenly believed that calling a show a “preview” was an excuse of sorts, a way of covering for one’s possible inability to adequately manage rehearsals. I was determined that the first preview would be a flawless final product, that people would get at the first public performance the same thing they could expect from a performance later in the run.
There’s a reason hubris killed most of the classical heroes.
Thursday night we suffered a series of problems with the titular machine, both of which needed to be corrected by the next evening. In case the machine still failed, I hastily fashioned a short dialogue exchange that would allow the cast to acknowledge the failure and then move on with the end of the play.
Friday night the machine worked perfectly but we lost a sound cue due to an unfortunate programming mishap. Also, the theater itself was so cold that actors were forced to keep their shivering to a minimum while trying to remember lines and blocking…the rhythm of the piece got thrown off and was hard to get back. The cue was rebuilt.
There were also a number of minute notes I gave the cast and crew to work with; a tweak here and there to make certain moments more effective. However, I was also determined that I would no longer give notes after Saturday’s opening.
Last night we opened to an oversold house (certain seats were blocked off for visibility and logistical reasons, but there seemed to be a communication breakdown between the show and the box office) and really, the only way it could possibly have gone better is if a specific sight gag hadn’t gone messily awry…although even then, the cast had the wherewithal to play with the amusing error.
I have no more notes to give. The show is all that I imagined it could be when I proposed it just over a year ago, and moreso than that.
I was asked a few times what was next for me. The specific answer is that I jump back into Too Much Light for the next four weekends and that I start rehearsing for Vitalist Theatre’s production of A Passage to India, opening April 8.
Beyond that, I’m unsure. At least a few times throughout the process of bringing Contraption to life, I have thought, and occasionally written out loud, that this might be the last thing I intend to do…that the action was so draining that it might finally be over after this show went up.
I don’t feel that anymore.
More importantly, I’m glad that I don’t feel that anymore.
Onwards and upwards.