Monday, September 10, 2007

Hit Me Baby One More Time

A little administrative note—Wednesday night is a Jewish holiday and thus there will be no blog post. I know that ruins all of your weeks.

“It’s a distraction when you’re out of town and you get national criticism”—so said Disney's Thomas Schumacher to The New York Times. That’s my favorite quote of the week because it says so much. Firstly I read the use of the word “distraction,” in this sense, as meaning like “nuisance,” not something to be taken seriously. Ummm… That’s one way of looking at it. (He then went on to talk about Beauty and the Beast’s reviews and how they didn’t matter. Now, if I were him, I wouldn’t want to refer back to Beauty, knowing how crappy it was, but, ok...) Secondly, “national criticism” is bothersome, but, as per this, not local. So, basically, this is “I don’t care what those morons in Denver say, but it’s annoying that David Rooney attacked it.” Yeah.

Moving on… How many of you readers eagerly watched Britney Spears? There is so much to discuss about it. I watched because the thing you can always count on Britney for is some sort of real show. This wasn’t one. To start off, there is only a small section of the population that would have looked great in that outfit. Old Britney was part of that population, crazy, hazy Britney is not. And she didn’t have much to do and yet she looked confused doing it—she looked down at the dancers in order to tell how to walk. Plus, I love when performers stop lip-syncing somewhere in the middle of the song. Usually they just forget—this poor girl looked like she lost the energy to do it—but, whatever the reason, that always cracks me up. Why am I discussing this on this bog? Well, it’s my blog and I can do whatever the hell I damn well please. Joe Iconis I’m sure has songs about how we can all do whatever the hell we like.

Though, actually, I must admit there is a connection here. No, it’s not Britney’s Sweet Charity discussion. It’s the fact that watching the coverage of her VMA opener gave me an idea that would help theater, especially musicals, tremendously. Did you see how confused/bored the audience members were when the camera flashed to them? That tells you a lot—that could tell creative team members a lot. That is why I am suggesting videotaping of audience members.

In the film industry they sometimes put people in a small room and watch their reactions to a given film. (This gives a more honest, immediate read than focus group talks or comment sheets.) They use this to decide if there is some re-editing that needs to be done or even re-shooting. But people behind films can’t typically do that much after these things. It is often too expensive to re-shoot and, with re-editing, you can only do so much usually. Think of all the possibilities this would have in theater.

Often you have producers saying, in response to criticism, “well, the audience loves that part.” They are judging based on laughs and applause, I suppose. They could judge so much better if they could just watch the audience after particular lines. Sure, now they could glance around, but with video cameras the whole team could watch the whole audience together and adapt the show accordingly. This wouldn’t mean much with non-musical dramas, I guess, but with other shows it could be an indispensable tool.

There are so going to be people out there who cry artistic fowl and that we should not be tailoring art to the masses. I am with you there, to some degree. I don’t think we should use this to rule every decision. But the masses are your audience. You need them. You need them to tell their friends to go. Or else there will be no show. Do we want to stand on principle and end up with a shuttered show?

I’m all for this idea. It’s not a new concept, by any means, but it’s never been applied full force in this way. And I think it should be. If I was the director of a musical and I saw Chris Brown’s clueless face during one of my musical numbers, I’d want to change it.

1 comment:

cgeye said...

I'd wonder about what sort of indemnity you'd have to offer the audience to be 1) identified as being in the audience, and 2) willing to be observed and photographed.

Beyond that, how would you avoid the problem of a papered house? To get people to be photographed, a discounted ticket or some other compensation might be offered. If an audience is getting something beyond the performance, would they feel obligated to exaggerate what they like, hide what isn't?