There is no perfect formula for a show’s success.
Opening Night is magic.
Regardless of how long you’ve been rehearsing, or the length of the show you’re producing, all theatre people know (whether they admit it or not) that Opening Night will be excellent. There are many factors, including:
-Anticipation (friends, family, critics, people who have previous ties to the show or playwright / actors / director etc)
-Audience! (built in feedback)
-Adrenaline (Actors are thrilled, excited, jittery and ready to tear up the stage)
-Magic (no one can explain this, it just is)…this kind of ruined my list of “A” word factors of opening night success. AAAM.
Every opening night I am more amazed at myself and the ridiculous amount of nerves and excitement that wash through my body. In every experience I’ve had, opening night is a built in success. I don’t know how to explain it. Something to do with that M word. Magic. NOT the OTHER M word. Non theatre people can feel free to do their research and google what I’m talking about. Sorry, folks. I’m in the middle of a run of a show, and I don’t mess around.
Beyond opening night, seasoned actors are aware that the audience’s personality changes from night to night. They all laugh at the same things, cry at the same things, remain silent at the same things…from night to night. The personality of a group every night is different. It’s as though you are meeting someone new EVERY single night of a show and you have to pace your work with the rhythm of the crowd. It’s one of the scariest, and in my opinion, most fun parts about being an actor: figuring out how to suck the audience into the story onstage. It’s intuitive and takes work and practice, but to me it’s absolutely thrilling. You never know what you’re gonna get!
This brings me to another variable in a show’s success, which is audience etiquette. Now under most conditions, audiences behave. They know when to clap, laugh. Of course, somebody sometimes forgets to turn off their cell phone…but when I say etiquette I mean…
you know those people who TALK during a show?
those people who come in late and ARE LOUD and OBNOXIOUS?
People who TALK on their CELL PHONES as they leave to ANSWER IT!?
There is one rule, in my oh-so-humble opinion when it comes to being an audience member at a show, and contributing to a postive experience for both actor and theatre-goer:
Don’t be an inconsiderate douchebag.
That is all. Quite simple, methinks.
Another factor in a show’s success is publicity. I like to stick to the Andy Warhol-esque idea…who cares what they say about the show!? As long as they are talking about it, people will come. That’s all that really matters.
Okay. We all want rave reviews. But nothing is worse than not being talked about! (that’s more Oscar Wilde-esque, but I am auditioning for an Oscar Wilde play this evening, so that’s where my mind is right now).
And I think the last, certainly not least, important variable in a show’s success…is the ability of a show to ride the wave of a run.
I know. That sounds vague. But what I mean is, most shows usually follow this kind of “excitement / awesomeness” schedule:
Opening Night: AWESOME!!!!! highest on awesome scale to infinity!
Second Night..is known as the Second Night Slump. Second night is all like, “Yo, how am I supposed to follow the craziness of Friday night? Everyone’s still recovering from the whole awesomefest of last night. Ugh. I’ll try my best.” AKA not so awesome.
Matinees: NOT AWESOME AT ALL. Old people, people who have just had a chill morning at church, chillaxed people who don’t want to do housework. Sunday people are usually zoning out and honestly not prepared to take in a stimulating theatre experience. It’s okay. It’s not their fault. They don’t realize! They are trying to be culturally sophisticated people, but sadly…Our bodies and minds take Sunday off. It’s just how we’re built.
Additional Evenings: they’re fine. I would say pretty good to awesome on a high scale. Additional evenings are usually on their best behavior.
ENDING ON A MATINEE: NOT. OKAY. It’s comparable to watching the night sky on the Fourth of July AFTER the fireworks have fizzled to darkness. Lots of smoke..haze..and nothing really pretty to see. No energy. negative on the awesome scale. Why?? See Matinee.
For the show I am currently in, “Crimes of the Heart,” at Rocky Hill Theatre, we are halfway through our run.
Opening night? AMAZING! The audience listened to every word, laughed, cried, it was great.
Second night? Not so many people. No one laughed until at least 45 minutes in. Then they realized it was okay to laugh and they seemed pretty interested.
Opening Night = magic.
Second Night Slump? Slumpy.
PS We close on a matinee!!!!!! But I’m not hatin’. I’m still bring my A game. And so should you!
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