Everyone likes to feel like they saw something special.
I went to see Paul Simon last night.
And after the hour and a half set of killer music, we got to the perfunctory encore. Paul came and went a couple more times to tumultuous applause and gave us a couple more tunes.
It was great.
But I had to think about how special encores felt before they were status quo. An audience member had to think, “Oh my . . . I’m seeing something that doesn’t usually happen! I’m special!”
And when you’re a part of something special, what do you do? You talk about it.
Theater audiences like to feel special too, especially since, let’s face it, they know they’re getting a product that is part of an eight-show-a-week assembly line.
Encores are a little tricky in our business . . . because it doesn’t make much sense in a show to save our best song for after the curtain call. Repeating a song would be interesting, and some have tried with reprises or the more involved mega mix.
But what else can we do to make the audience feel that they are seeing something special that every other audience doesn’t get to see, so that they’ll be more inclined to talk-about-it? (Slight digression, but do you want to break out into this song every time someone says “talk about?”)
Well, there’s the planned “mistake,” where a screw-up is written into the script, like in Will Rogers Follies, when a dog from the dog act made an “unexpected” entrance in a scene . . . eight times a week. Or in Falsettos, when a crash offstage made it look like some scenery had gone astray. These always get people talking since it is one of the reasons we go to the theater in the first place (and for more on this, read this blog I wrote three years ago).
Shows with audience participation have this built-in to their structure, since no two audiences will ever see the same show . . . which can create some fun competition between audience members. (“I saw a better show!” “No, I did!”)
Impressive understudies often create unique performances, but no one is gonna want to make a habit of putting on a understudy to jump start some word of mouth (hmmmmm . . .).
Everyone likes to feel that the products they buy (especially luxury products, like theater tickets) are just for them. It’s why custom suits, monogrammed shirts and engraved jewelry are popular.
If we could somehow make our audience feel like every night was like a custom made golf club, our patrons would show that off much more.
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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.