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Down With Pre-Performance Monologues

August 12, 2010

monologue.jpegThere are probably laws dictating that theatre companies need to make public safety announcements at the start of performances. But I wish companies wouldn't do it. There's no greater Joy Kill.

You walk into the theatre, excited about what's about to happen. You buy a drink, take your seat, peruse your program and get ready to experience something unusual. A little thrill rushes through you at the prospect of being transported to a different world for a couple of hours. The auditorium hums with the buzz of expectation and goodwill. You engage the stranger sitting next to you in a conversation about the company's work or another production of the play you saw in Pennsylvania in the summer of '92. Everyone's in it together. The clock strikes eight and you're just about ready for the houselights to go down. But instead they go...up! And some awkward, stage-struck volunteer in a company T-shirt suddenly materializes before your eyes with a rambling monologue about how grateful the organization is to welcome you to its humble theatrical offering and how donations would be gratefully appreciated no matter how large or small, followed by the inevitable please-notice-your-nearest-emergency-exit and please-switch-off-your-cellphone reminders.

By the time the volunteer has finished talking, the spell has been completely -- and sometimes irreparably -- broken. What a shame.

If there were some way to prevent these speeches from happening, the theatre-going experience would be improved. You rarely hear people at a concert or public lecture telling the audience to silence its cellphones etc. Put the information on a board at the theatre doors if you have to; write a message on the front cover of the program; have the person who takes tickets or hands out programs voice a gentle reminder as he or she escorts audience members to their seats.

But please, please, please don't ruin those crucial first moments with an annoying -- and to my mind, unnecessary -- speech.


  • The announcement about exits is required by law, although two performing groups I work with ignore the law.

    I hate talking before performances. Feels like a PTA meeting or some such thing.

    By Blogger, At August 16, 2010 at 9:19 AM  

  • I think it's fine so long as the person giving the curtain speech follows two basic things - get the audience clapping and laughing. Instead of treating the speech like a PSA, approach it like the producer of "The Tonight Show" hitting the stage before the show and pumping up the crowd to welcome Jay Leno with raucous applause. That way, hopefully, you get the audience even more excited and ready to see killer show.

    If the show is a downtrodden drama involving little to no humor in its three hour running time, I'd seriously consider why you're doing it in the first place.

    By Blogger Carl Benson, At August 25, 2010 at 4:07 PM  

  • Your posting made me think immediately of The Marsh. Or maybe it's just that I see so many shows there.

    I disagree with Carl's comments. To me, the two most important things are to be brief and to be professional. The people who try to be funny tend to be amateurish and to draw out the length.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At September 3, 2010 at 12:05 AM  

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