Saturday, December 19, 2009

Rock concerts at Interplayers

Tim_Robbins has some ideas about how to reinvigorate theaters and their bottom lines:

** pay-what-you-can nights
** host pop-music nights with marquee (or at least locally famous) names (to make up for the lost revenue from the cheap-tickets nights)

People avoid going to places they're not familiar with. (To repeat myself: Years ago, when I required my students at Whitworth and NIC to attend plays at Interplayers, it wasn't theater-aversion or even cost that was the sticking point -- it was logistics: Where do I park? How must I behave? What do I wear? You have to walk up the stairs to get to the auditorium?)

You get people into your space once, and they're much more likely to return.
And why are Catarina and the new Empyrean and the Knit and Irv's hosting all the music shows? Why couldn't the buy-a-book-to-see-Sherman-and-Jess reading at Auntie's have been held at the Civic, or at Interplayers? Why not host Tuesday night or Sunday night concerts at Interplayers?
Imagine a dual-concert-with-booze party at Interplayers: a poppy group in the Welch Auditorium, a grittier act down in the scene shop, a liquored-up party buzzing in the Gellhorn Gallery, maybe some visual art on display to divert people as they go up and down stairs. (And especially on Visual Arts Tour nights -- what I'm describing is exactly the vibe that the last Terrain show had.) And so maybe the next time a 20- or 30-something hears about some play about a dude who bought at all-white painting at Interplayers, at least they're familiar with how to get there. And if it's only $9 (the cost of a movie) on a Friday night -- bingo, you've got a first-time theater-goer, along with all the attendant word-of-mouth.

Robbins also makes the point about our first experiences of theater tending to be amateurish (which is not the case with movies, TV, music, books, or visual art).
I'd add the "school-plays-and-Phantom phenomenon": Many people go to theater primarily to see a) people they know or b) huge spectaculars. Theaters can compete on a) by making their actors visible and accessible: videos, post-performance chats (and why are there never PRE-performance chats? the Symphony does 'em), public appearances.
And huge-special-effects movies, along with the mega-musicals, have created an expectation among many that theater is primarily about delivering the "wow!" factor. But theater has lost that battle to the 3D Avatars of this world. Concentrate instead on the verbal, the metaphorical, the dreamy. We can win on this issue, folks -- it's like the familiar situation of parents buying the fancy, expensive toy for Junior ... except Junior is more interested in the box the toy came in than in the toy itself. Why? Because playing with the box appeals to Junior's imagination.
There are a lot of adults out there (and not just in their 50s and 60s) who want to use their imaginations still.

For more on the WTF Festival, go here. A snip:
Tim Robbins: "So in the spirit of rebellion and our history of survival, we are going to produce 3 plays, host great artists and authors, screen free documentaries, have open forums for Veterans, have live music nights with great songwriters, present poetry and dance, screen ridiculously funny movies, host talkbacks with directors and try to raise enough money to survive this crap economy."

When Bobo saw a show at the Actors Gang in Feb. '08, both Robbins and Susan Sarandon were there. They were both wearing Converse low-tops. Both of them averted their eyes, trying to act all cool, as if they didn't know I was there.
People in L.A. are like that when it comes to Spokane celebrities.

[photo: Tim Robbins on a non-Converse night; from]

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At December 20, 2009 2:56 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe what would really help Interplayers would be to pick intersting and diverse plays and then produce them well. How about starting there?

At December 21, 2009 4:01 PM , Blogger Bobo the Theater Ho said...

No fair sniping without contributing. Name half a dozen "interesting and diverse" plays that you would program instead. And diverse in what way?

At December 21, 2009 8:54 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I can jump in here, I'd say Interplayers would do well to program a few more comedies and familiar titles -- and face the fact that plays like Godot are not crowd-pleasers. Downer comedies are great, but what about a real farce once in a while? Also, I honestly don't think two plays by the same playwright in the same season could be considered "diverse."


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