March 26, 2010

If you feed them, they will come

99Seats has a post that started out being about the Digital Age but wound up talking about food. There's also mention of orgies.

This conversation, although currently seeming to wrestle with the purpose of theatre in the age of Twitter and iPhone, reminds me of some ideas I offered up a while back about how to get more butts in seats. Nevertheless, I find it's still relevant because what I hinted at (without really knowing it) was putting the liveness of theatre front and center instead of merely making it TV or film with four walls.

For me, debating whether our wired world is friend or foe to theater is sort of moot. We are in a wired world. That's it. There's nothing anyone can say to really change that (unless what you're going to say is, "I've invented a time machine, and it works.").

I'm more interested in figuring out how to take the world as it is to create new possibilities - which is what theatre does anyway. Like cgeye, I'm inclined to believe that "we have to start renegotiating the tacit contracts we've made with our audiences, and I don't know if we want to do that."

What are the "rules" we've set up for the actual act of going to see a play (no tardiness, no food, no walking around, no talking, no cell phones, no cameras - funny how these rules are all things you're not supposed to do)? What happens if we break them? What other live art forms can we take inspiration from (concerts, perhaps)? What other communal activities can we learn from (for example, church)?

I'll let you in on a little secret. I love going to the movies with a predominantly non-White audience - especially horror movies*. Know why? Because it's not just a movie. It's an event. If I just want to see the images on the screen, I'd be better served by watching it on DVD at home. But I want the full experience, and that experience includes popcorn, soda, candy - and people talking to the screen. To be very honest, sometimes the audience makes a shitty movie good just by their reaction. And sometimes a great movie becomes phenomenal when you get an "Oooooh, shit!" or a "Daaaaaaamn!" tossed in there. The third (fourth?) time I saw Return of the King was by far my favorite because of how people were reacting to it. The jokes some audience members were cracking had me laughing so hard, you would've thought I was watching Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail.

(* This is why MST3K never caught on with me - I did that shit anyway, although without the robots. Although I had toys. Did that count?)

But it's not just the audience either - it's the popcorn too! Things just don't feel complete without a little bag of corn-flavored air and grease to stuff into my mouth, followed by chocolate, Twizzlers, "fruit" candy, or some other high-calorie, low-nutrition substance. It doesn't have to be junk food per se - just something to eat. For some reason, perhaps because I'm a closet foodie or something, being without food and drink at a movie just feels wrong, so wrong that it's hard for me to focus on the movie because I keep thinking about how nice a bag or tub of buttery goodness followed by high fructose corn syrup with water in it. I can't figure out why that is, but I think it might be worth rooting it out.


  1. American Theatre this month's featuring theatre and food:

  2. I am with you on this! The only place other than the U.S. that I've seen theatre is Ireland, and I was really fascinated by the cultural differences in audience behavior-- most relevant to your post, the fact that people can be heard crunching on chips and reacting more freely and boisterously. For a show I'm directing this spring, we are having popcorn nights. If a little more noise and mess means happier viewers, then I'm all for it.