Thursday, February 15, 2007

Where Do You Get An Audience Like That

I am laughing at myself—yes, I am insane—I was sitting here wondering what to say about Daughters of Catastrophe, to intrigue a potential audience in my city. That's so funny!

There is nothing as difficult as enticing a Seattleite. Once you get their attention and sell them a ticket, they are the best audience imaginable: literate, alert, and glad to be there. I've heard people who have never had a standing ovation complain that Seattle audiences give standing ovations at the drop of a hat. That is true—but the appreciation is genuine. They are not pretending; they actually liked the performance that much. In fact, most of them—except that guy in the front row who keeps his arms folded over his chest, and sighs deeply at the inferiority of every scene—came to the theatre hoping to like the show. They brought enthusiasm. They are happy to share their relief that this was not one of those nights when they had to sweat bullets until intermission and then quietly run away into the night.

How do you get people to come see the show? Posters and ads and sponsorship and press releases to calendars, of course, but why will people want to respond? On some level it must sell itself by being inherently interesting to the community you expect to see it. If I have learned nothing else about theatre—and I have learned less than nothing—it is that there is no point in presenting a show you care about if you're offering it to people who couldn't care less about the topic.

Which reminds me: the people who were excited about Daughters, every time it was presented, were women. They had things to say about every aspect of it. And their opinions were fascinating.

I had a similar experience with another play I wrote, The Red Room, about a serial murderess and the three emotionally damaged daughters she had raised in full view of her special habit. I still meet women who mention the Arriba Production with affection. For some reason a couple of male reviewers did not enjoy watching middle-aged female characters poison, assault, and murder a "gentleman caller" on stage. I don't get it, but there you go.

So, I started by asking how I could interest people in Daughters of Catastrophe, and all I've done is figure out why some guys ran away from one of my plays. Hmm.

How do you reach an audience in Seattle? It's a challenge. In case you don't know us: California is laid back. Seattle is definitely lying down. We're the recliners. Once we reach the theatre, we're the applauders, but that's at least a quarter of a mile away, buddy, and life is so short, you know?

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