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Throw Rotten Veggies at the Actors Night

October 20, 2009

vegetables.jpegSick of boring standing ovations and polite clapping? Wish audiences would show their feelings about a performance in a more visceral way? The San Francisco-based theatre company PianoFight has the answer: Have audiences throw vegetables at the performers at curtain time.

PianoFight, which should consider renaming itself "FoodFight", presented its inaugural Throw Rotten Veggies at the Actors Night immediately following a performance of its latest production S.H.I.T. Show Deluxe last Friday night at Studio 250 / Off-Market Theatre. You can find out more about the event here and watch a short YouTube video here.

I was surprised to find out from PianoFight's artistic director, Rob Ready, that "lies like truth" had played a role in bringing about this auspicious occasion. A blog entry I wrote a year ago about the ongoing progress of Free Night of Theatre, a nationwide audience development concept that was piloted in San Francisco five years ago, prompted an exchange between Rob, Brad Erickson (the head of Theatre Bay Area) and I in the comments area of the blog, which in turn inspired Throw Rotten Veggies Night.

In response to Brad's comments to my blog post, Rob (writing under the moniker Carl Benson) wrote:

"I guess my over all point is this: instead of giving away the product to find new audiences, why don't we have National New Play Night/Week/Month/Year? Or how about National Throw Veggies at the Actors Night? I would totally get on stage for that, and I guarantee most of my friends would be there in the audience, hands full of rotten tomatoes. Really, all I'm saying is for theater to create new audiences, in a world where it's easier to access an audience using technology, theater has got to start having more fun. That's what people generally want when they go out, fun. Hard hitting is good, politically charged is good, socially conscious is good, but if they're not balanced with being entertained and having a good time, nobody is coming to the theater, especially in a time where spending cash is sparse and the TV is free."

To which I responded:

"The idea of holding a National Throw Veggies at the Actors Nigh is intriguing. Why not start one up locally?"

To which Rob replied:

"You got it."

And the rest as they say, is history.

PianoFight is hoping to expand Throw Rotten Veggies Night to other companies in the future. Says Rob: "I actually pitched the idea to a theater company at Queens University in Canada, called the Queens Players. My goal was to get a company in another country so we could dub the event "International Throw Rotten Veggies at the Actors Night" -- a bit of a one-up on TBA's "National Free Night of Theater" -- but they apparently weren't into the idea." Undaunted, PianoFight still aims to get more theatre companies involved. The group has apparently written a 20-30 minute set of "veggie tossing tailored sketch comedy" which other ensembles can use as a basis upon which to build a soiree of turnip and carrot lobbing.

I couldn't get to the event last Friday, but Rob says it went down quite well. "Even a couple girls who were sitting in the front row and got pelted in the back of the head with veggies throughout the set were all smiles afterwards and came out to the bar with the cast afterwards. I overheard one woman remarking to her husband with a big grin on her face, 'That was complete mayhem.'"

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