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Theatre Trailers

June 14, 2007

In an effort to appeal to new audiences, the National Theatre in the U.K. has launched its own YouTube Channel with trailers of three of its productions. The theatre company also developed its own Facebook page a while ago.

This isn't really news of course, as many theatre companies have YouTube, MySpace and FaceBook pages. These technologies are presenting the non-profit arts world with a creative way of getting out the word about its creations.

Theatre trailers can be, if well-made, a great way of enticing audiences to see a production. Some people grumble about the fact that trailers are apt to give away the plot, which is something movie trailers do all the time. I would argue that the plot usually isn't the most engaging thing about theatre. Spoiler warnings don't generally detract from the magic of seeing just how a story is staged. The director's ideas for the mise-en-scene, the interpretations by the actors, the use of sound, lighting, costumes and props, and the temperature of the house are far more interesting than plot, in my opinion.

The National Theatre's trailers aren't extremely good. I think the Guardian's blogger, Henrietta Clancy, does a good job of summarizing them:

"I must admit that the Rafta, Rafta... one is not a particularly convincing advertisement for the production. Unfortunately, the replacement of words with some Bollywood-style backing sounds makes the clip took like a trailer for a silent movie crossed with a substandard Channel 5 drama. The trailer for A Matter of Life and Death shows a definite improvement, but if you stumbled across it you'd be forgiven for assuming it was promoting a film not a play. Philistines by Maxim Gorky is the most recent opening at the National and the latest addition to the trailer archive. This trailer is the best at capturing the essence of the stage. Having seen Philistines, I can confirm that the trailer definitely shines a light on Gorky's play. It successfully embraces the real grit of live performance, yet I feel sure that it could be pushed further. The trailer could benefit from some footage of the rehearsal process or a few shots of the audience being shown to their seats and buying programmes."

The National's foray onto YouTube brings back memories of serving on a committee a couple of years ago of Bay Area theatre professionals who were keen to develop systematic program for creating and airing trailers of shows by all local theatre companies. We bandied the idea around for a while. Brad Erickson, Executive Director of Theatre Bay Area even submitted a grant proposal to get funding for the endeavor. But the proposal was rejected and our plans stalled. This was a shame as a centralized repository for theatre trailers, perhaps connected to TBA or the TIX half-price ticket booth in particular, would have served the community well and created more buzz around shows.

It seems like some funding bodies are now catching on to the idea though. I've just been informed by Karen McKevitt, editor in chief of Theatre Bay Area Magazine, that TBA recently successfully obtained $10,000 from the NEA for audience development initiatives including the development of e-trailers for local productions on its website. Thanks to Karen for taking the time to read my original post and emailing me with an update. Here's what she writes:

"The fact that Theatre Bay Area’s grant proposal on trailers was rejected was last year’s news. We wrote another proposal which was approved, and rather than our plans being stalled, they are starting to move forward. Happily, in the funding world, one rejection doesn’t mean the proposal or the idea is dead—oftentimes there’s another funder who’s excited about the idea.
We’re very excited about this as obviously theatrical trailers are a great marketing tool and the technology is getting easier."

It'll be fascinating to see how this project develops.



  • Not really a comment on the You Tube trailers for the NT but I did see 'A Matter of Life & Death' with my younger daughter (who griped about having an exam the following afternoon) on the recommendation of my older daughter, who's just about to do her final Theatre Studies exam. Brilliant! So glad I went. Younger daughter liked it so much she went a second time, a week later, just before the run ended. Excellent production, some fine acting and the way the stage and set were used to depict heaven and earth was so clever. Hope it returns as I have a queue of friends who missed out!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At June 25, 2007 at 2:35 AM  

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