Make Theatre. Not Speeches.

There’s a practice by some theatres to incorporate a curtain speech into every performance. These are usually done by a volunteer board member or company member, and generally is a “welcome to the show….we’re glad to have you here..etc.” and sometimes includes a pitch for season tickets or donations.

Blah!

I hate these speeches. I know hate is a strong word, but it’s appropriate here. I hate these speeches because they take me out of the moment and out of the experience of theatre-going. They ruin the moment. They do NOT add to the production.

I believe that experiencing a play includes the venue—its setting and atmosphere. I appreciate pre-show music, and pre-show lighting on an exposed set, because they create a tone for the play that I’m about to experience. To have all that interrupted, albeit momentarily, for someone to “welcome” me and possibly try to sell me something, is really off-putting.

(I’ve barely become accustomed to the pre-recorded messages about turning off cell phones. I dislike those too.)

The other night I went to a show in a non-typical theater space. It was an intimate production with less than 100 seats. The pre-show music and lighting of the room (I say “room” because there was little differentiating from the “stage” and the “house) was perfectly used to place the audience in the right time period and setting. The intent was to put us right there in the middle of the action, and it worked.

Then the lights shifted, and someone came out and……started talking at us about how proud she was of this show and how important it was and how excited they all were that we were all  there and how if we wanted to support the company (because after all they couldn’t do it without us!) we could make a donation……blah blah….and “please enjoy the show” and off she walked.

Ugh. I was out of it. I was no longer in the room. I was down the street, around the corner, I was anywhere but the place that had been created.

And I thought to myself, “I hate curtain speeches.” And this time?

This time, after about a fifteen-second pause, the same woman walked right back on from whence she went and started the play.

Awful.

Awful!

To top it off, the play begins with this lead character on stage alone for several minutes. No dialogue. Naturalism. Simple. But I wasn’t interested because I just listened to her sales pitch. She’s already broken the believability for me.

I don’t know anyone who loves a curtain speech, but most people I know have a much higher tolerance for them than I do. Call me a purist. I believe in the power of theatre. I believe it’s the greatest of the art forms that can speak to its audience in the most detailed way and reach greater depths.

I wish producers would stop ruining it with curtain speeches. Put it in my program. Let me read it instead. In fact, show me some great work and THEN prompt me to take action to make a donation when I read it in the program….the program I’ll review again after the show when it’s been a great experience.

Then? Then you’ll get my donation money.

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