Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Question about Previews

Why do theatre companies have them?

Rob Kozlowski posted a blog saying that he went to see a preview of Little Dog Laughed. He wrote a little bit about the show as did one of his commenters. Eric Rosen posted a comment in response where he gets on people's cases about criticizing a preview, comparing it to inviting dinner guests over when you're deciding on the menu.

No offense to someone I don't know, but ... that's kind of a dumb analogy. It's more like inviting people over an hour early while you're setting the table. Why would you? I certainly wouldn't, unless they were an out of town guest that was staying over and had nowhere else to go. Or maybe he was saying that he's the type to plan his menu out last minute ... I'm a couple weeks in advance girl, if I'm having a dinner party, but that's just me. Anyway ...

I don't really understand previews and inviting others to see a final dress/tech, especially if you're not ready and there's the chance of someone yelling "Hold!" during the show. If you're at the "Hold!" point, I don't think you're ready to have an audience.

Am I wrong? And, if you're going to invite people to come see the show before it's ready to open and those people have an opinion on the show, then ... why would you have a problem with that? You chose to let them in!!! Our friend, Bob, wanted to come see A View from the Bridge during one of our final dress rehearsals, but we just weren't ready to let the public in. We were figuring out the video stuff, making sure our light board and sound/video ops were good to go, making sure the actors were comfortable in the space, giving last minute notes, etc. Sometimes, we're completely set to go the night before we open, sometimes we just need the closed space. This time, we needed the privacy, even though Bob's a director, peer, friend, etc. We just weren't ready to pull back the curtain.

So ... why do people have previews exactly? How do they normally work? Do people pay to see glitches or are they normally free?



Dianna said...

Well, for SRT if we charge at all, its usually only 5$ - but in the end we end up comping people. And it's usually theatre people - folks we're looking for feedback from.
We look at it like this - come see our show before it opens (for free or super cheap), give us some feedback, and then tell everyone you know about it.

However, I totally understand what you're saying about "performance ready". If we were ever at a point where we didn't think the audience SHOULD see something, we wouldn't have them (I think)

Nick Keenan said...

I think previews are incredibly useful, but I think what you're describing, Rebecca, is a final dress or tech, not a preview.

To me, previews are all about audience reaction. The show pretty much works (and certainly is technically in place) but there are still unanswered timing questions about how an audience will react or how a scene now works.

it's often not feasible for a storefront theater to open up with a preview week if you're going to be charging less... The sooner you open, the sooner you can pay off that credit card debt you took on to pay for the show. But, allowing yourself for a preview or two - plus rehearsal to make adjustments - AFTER all the tech is in and the show is running smoothly can drastically improve the quality of your dramatic product.

But it's certainly gravy, you know? Sometimes we can't handle too much gravy.

By the way, thanks for your comments about Bev!

GreyZelda Land said...

One thing I didn't take into consideration is the difference between companies that have their own theatre as opposed to those who rent their performance space ... a lot of times we only have a handful of days to get loaded in and ready to roll, so ... that's why we don't normally do previews.

I can definitely see why they would be valuable to a production, if you're able to have that extra time.


lizarinny said...

i think they are valuable in 2 ways:

1.) you can invite theater colleagues as a test audience to promote good vibes and interesting reactions to the work before opening night.

2.) it is a nice way to get your friends to come for free who would otherwise be too cheap to come