There Will Be No Pre-Show Announcement

Karen McKevitt of Staged Readings (and not Stage Dreadings, as the URL appeared to me) points out the absurd, distracting nature of pre-show announcements.

She’s right. Anything that the audience experiences before, during, and after the action of any play becomes part of the performance. The same rule applies in an ad-saturated multiplex or a concert at a cramped bar. The last thing a night at the theatre should feel like is flying on a passenger jet.

One thing I enjoyed about my workplace’s production of Hamlet was that its pre-show announcement came very pre-show. A brief list of pre-recorded reminders was played, ten minutes went by, and then the performance started. It separated the laundry list of audience duties from the experience of being an audience member. And that voice-of-God moment hopefully got people in their seats faster—it was nearly three hours.

Through the benevolence of Nancy V. I saw Dirty Rotten Scoundrels this Tuesday. I sat down, the lights dimmed, and the voice of Jonathan Pryce called out:

May I have your attention please. At this performance of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, there will be no pre-show announcement.

Very humorous. And completely lacking in fire safety information. I suppose we all risked burning to death in ignorance that night, but for a cheap laugh, it’s worth it.

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