Turn the lights down low. Turn up the Barry White.

And insert bow chika bow bow music here.

Before any sort of main event, it’s important to set the mood.  And that goes for the theater as well.

When doing a show, it’s important that you don’t go-for-gusto until you’ve warmed up your audience for what they’re about to experience.  You want them to be ready.  You want them to be excited.

You want them to call you the next morning for another date.

Rock bands have opening acts.  Live talk shows have warm-up comedians.  Movies have previews.

What do you have?

Is there music playing while the audience is seated?  What kind?

Are your ushers dressed formally?  Are they in costume?

Is there a character on stage?  Off stage?  Both?  (Brian Bradley worked up the crowd into a frenzy during the 30 minutes prior to the Alma Mater in the last revival of Grease that I PAed.)

Is the curtain open? Drawn?  What type of curtain is it?  (One of the smallest but most significant changes I’ve seen to a “pre-show” was on the last Gypsy revival, which I CMed.  For the first few previews, the audience entered the theater and stared at a blank, dark and depressing stage . . . for 30 minutes.  We wondered why they weren’t so responsive during the first scene?  We brought in the beautiful “grand drape” for later previews and the audience’s somberness disappeared.)

What you do in the 30 or so minutes from when your doors open to when
your show begins is crucial.  You’re setting the tone for the entire

So make sure you consider it.

Because you’ll never get the reaction you want from your audience, without proper “beforeplay”.

– – – – –

Props to one of our My First Time models, who is one of the Bow Chika girls in the video above.  Can you tell which one?

  • Brian Teasley says:

    The most amazing warm up act I’ve ever seen was done by a guy named… Ed McMahon on a show called “The Tonight Show”.
    After the audience sat outside for 2 hours in the hot california sun, then in a warm theater for another 30 minutes, the band filed in. Then the producer, Fred de Cordova, spoke to the audience for 5 minutes. The audience was polite, but certainly not ready for a show.
    Then Ed McMahon came out and did a 5 minute “stand up” type routine that was stunning in its’ brilliance. I had NO idea he had that talent, since all we usually saw was his “side kick” routine. In those 5 minutes he completely transformed the audience. They went from hot, tired and cranky, to excited and ready for a show.
    It was one of the most amazing performances I’ve ever seen. The audience was then completely ready for the show – and the band kicked in to the famous theme song. All Carson had to do was step out and soak up the results.
    Letterman makes his audience do everything but dance in the aisles before his shows. And they’d do that if the crew simply asked. I was standing on the stage one day when they let the audience into the theater.. and they almost RUN to their seats. Music is blasting, the energy is very high. Having an audience running at you is a little scary.
    I learned a lot about “audience prep” during those 5 minutes of watching McMahon. I couldn’t do what he did for the life of me, but I know enough to know to do something to prepare an audience for a show.

  • Geoff Short says:

    Hi Ken! It’s the small details that always make the difference. I call this the “Disney Effect”. I don’t think there is a company anywhere that does a better job of setting the mood for whatever attraction you might be waiting in line for at DisneyWorld. Whenever I’m there I don’t mind waiting in line at all because there are always cool visual and sound effects going on…if I’m going 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, there are awesome nautical and submarine visuals and sound, etc. I always try to do the same with shows. For an upcoming production of Assassins I’m Directing, audiences will see and hear images of historic political rallies, speeches, unrest, riots, etc. mixed in with classic images of what represents the American Dream. Thanks – Geoff

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