Last night, our production of The ODD COUPLE had its biggest audience to date. The audience enjoyed the show. They laughed at our delivery of Neil Simon‘s lines and were engaged in the story. The suspension of disbelief actually happens.
What is clear to one who is involved in this sort of thing is that once you have the show cast and directed properly, the play takes on a life of its own. But not all aspects jump to life and run around.
Show business has two sides- the art side and the business side. As I said above, the art aspect is taken care of by the director. The business side, the haunting space of the producer, is perhaps more difficult in my experience.
The business side comprises the nuts and bolts of funding cast & crew, props, the venue, set design and construction, etc. This is very concrete and relatively easy to understand and manage. What is less than easy to understand is the publicity function.
Publicity today must be done in the schizophrenic world of print and internet media. The center of the community theatre-going demographic are the retired people and those over, say, 60 years of age. Go to most any production and you’ll see the Q-tips and Blue Hairs in the seats.
In order to put butts in seats, this group must receive the message and thence be wrenched from the recliner in front of the DirecTV and compelled to go out into the evening traffic, find a parking spot, and buy a ticket.
After rehearsal the other night, a few of my fellows and I repaired to the local establishment for some beverages. This public house featured an open mike performance by local musicians who were actually quite good. The tables were filled with an entirely different demographic group than we had set our sights upon and the air was full of expectant optimism.
After the waitress delivered my cold glass of liquid bread I put to her a sincere query. I asked her what it is that would compel her and her fellows to attend community theatre? This fine specimen of a 20-something stood there flummoxed. She was accustomed to fending off the unwanted advancements of inebriated customers, but this sort of question was completely unexpected. She left to tend another table, promising an answer on her next visit.
On her next visit, the waitress, a former theatre major, said that she would be attracted to a production that was … edgy. That was it. I acknowledged her comment and asked her if she ever goes to live theatre performances. She said “no”. I asked her how would such a message find its way to her and her compatriots. She thought about it and replied that she didn’t know. There was no single information outlet that percolated up.
I suspect that this interchange represents the situation in miniature. We have so many channels with densely packed data streams pouring into our consciousness that we are overwhelmed with it. Information is cheap and abundant. The value of any given notice of a public event is diluted to an infinitesmal level by the sheer volume of similar such notifications across the multidimensional space of media.
We do suspect that the Blue Hair demographic still reads newspapers and in the future we’ll throw a handful of money at print advertising. But like everyone else, we’ll be uneasy with the expenditure. It is very difficult to predict the effect of low intensity advertising in any given medium.
High intensity advertising, on the other hand, is a good way to get the message out. But high intensity advertising is high intensity spending and that isn’t an option yet.