Halftime shows for shows?

I’ve been thinking a lot about sports lately.

Maybe it’s because I’m sore from my basketball game last night.  Or maybe because we’re getting close to the pennant race and my BoSox are gonna make another run for it.

Or maybe it’s because of the email I got from one of you about my traumatic Tibor post.  The email asked why it was ok to take photos of a professional athlete like LeBron James at a basketball game, but we weren’t allowed to take photos of actors in a curtain call?

Interesting point, right?  With all due respect to my Broadway actors, the images of LeBron and his peers are probably worth more than the ensemble of Hair, don’t you think?

But that’s not what this post is about.  The point is, I have sports on the brain.

What else do they do in live sporting events that we could learn from?

They overcharge their beverages.  So do we.

They have uncomfortable seats.  Check.

They have halftime shows.  Hmmmm?

Why do we have an intermission anyway?  To sell F&B?  To build tension in the story?  To change the sets?  To give the actors a break?  To give the audience a break?

All of the above.

Sporting events also do something very interesting during their act break.  They have cheerleaders and musical performances and audience interaction (the $1,000,000 half court shot), oh my!  It’s a bit circus-like, but it keeps the audience revved up, and actually enhances their experience.  And it’s in the style of the entire evening.

What do you do during your intermission to enhance the experience?

Don’t take me literally.  I’m not saying we should keep the curtain up and have the Spring Awakening cheerleaders do a pyramid onstage to a remix of “Totally F*cked”.

But I bet if you thought about it, you could figure out some sort of intermission activity that would be appropriate, and add to the experience and excitement.  And give people something to talk about.

Like . . .

People are always peering into the pits during intermission.  Maybe it’s an usher standing by the pit asking if anyone has questions, and talking about how important live music is to the Broadway experience.

Maybe it is a continuation of what’s going on onstage in a lesser form (a couple of those Hair hippies hanging around in the stands would have made sense).

What about some video of early television shows during intermission at The Farnsworth Invention?

Maybe it’s too much.  I don’t know.

But I do know this.

If you were buying a $100,000 full page ad in the New York Times, you’d spend time and money making sure you were taking advantage of every column inch in the best way possible.

Well, your most important ad is what happens in your theater every night.  And there’s 20 minutes of column inches going to waste every night.  You’ve got your audience captured.  Give them something else to do, other than get frustrated at the long lines at the bathroom.

Because that’s certainly not going to get the audience in the S-P-I-R-I-T for Act II.

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  • Wild Bird says:

    At Opa!’s recent Midtown Theatre performance we served a fine Greek Brandy called “Metaxa” at most intermissions. It kept the festive Greek atmosphere going and reinforced the joyous exuberant nature of the show.
    It also didn’t hurt to have a bottle on hand to serve the first night we sold out. Instead of just being frustrated about whether or not they could get in to see the show (we turned away about 20pp that night), our customers enjoyed a shot of Metaxa while they waited to get tickets. They may still have been frustrated but it’s amazing how such a simple thing let our patrons know that we cared about their frustrations.
    I used the Metaxa in subsequent sellouts as a mini consolation prize to the dozen or so people who couldn’t get tickets each remaining performance. As the music began inside a sellout performance, I and my colleagues spent the first few minutes inviting them to get on our mailing list and toasting their efforts to try to come see the show.
    It doesn’t really matter if liquor isn’t your thing…I think the attention and the fact that we did SOMETHING mattered the most.

  • Or take the ad space metaphor literally and have scenes from your concurrent or upcoming shows in the lobby, or cross market (in a smaller market like Austin) with a like minded group and have THEM do a preview…

  • The legendary flop Chu Chem Had sumo wrestlers on stage during intermission.
    Never mind that sumo is Japanese and Chu Chem was set in China…

  • One of my regular colleagues is currently acting in “Shear Madness” at the Kennedy Center in D.C. (as opposed to the one in Des Moines…? Right…anyway…), and at the intermission, the actors don’t get a break. It’s an interactive mystery farce, so one “detective” goes out in the lobby and lets the audience ask him questions and give him theories while the other “detective” keeps the suspects on stage, where they all interact with whomever’s still in the theatre until Act II starts. Very effective, and a lot of fun depending on the audience. (While out there this year, I’ve seen it about four times, and each time was fascinating.)
    On a similar note, several years ago, while working with a local college theatre department, we put on a production of Shakespeare’s “Merry Wives of Windsor.” (As opposed to Kennedy’s? In Des Moines?) The director set the show in a present-day setting, at a QVC-style shopping channel. What we did was, we created several infomercials and fake public service ads, which ran as a video loop before the show and through the intermission. It got people in the mood for the show, set up the situation and some of the characters, and best of all, it allowed us to have fun and write about forty minutes worth of infomercial parodies.
    And about two years ago, doing an original show set largely in Hell, one of the running jokes was that the only thing you could find on the tv’s there was Rachael Ray. What did we have playing during the intermission? Exactly.
    I’m all for keeping the audience engaged during the breaks, even if it’s only through programming specific pre-show music to influence the mood. Our most recent show was set in a war zone, and I created a soundscape for the preshow where all the music had a continuous, low rumbling of explosions and gunfire, ambient noise in the background, which wound up as a single forty minute long sound cue. But people were getting into the mood for the show, getting into the main character’s frame of mind by hearing the kind of thing he’d been hearing.
    So yeah, I’m all for a certain amount of immersive experience, because it sets the mood. Even programming the right song for a curtain call can make people jump out of their seats for an ovation. (Hooray for K.T. Tunstall…)

  • Bosox? Please. The halftime idea is brilliant though. Also the no photos comment is right on. Before televised baseball games, some team owners (the dinosaurs of the bunch) were terrified that attendance would drop dramatically when they started broadcasting. The opposite happened. Making things more available to the public makes them more popular.
    The Actors Equity union spends untold man hours removing fan videos and sneak peaks of live shows off of Youtube. Nearly every other media outlet does everything they can to get as many of their snipets and clips on there to increase popularity. A buzz is a buzz and there’s no such thing as a bad one except none at all.
    The same is true with free market v closed market economies- but I digress. Even if just for the press value, an occasional “half-time” show at appropriate shows with a special guest or something of the like could do great things to “start a buzz.”

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