Ellen Gamerman at The Wall Street Journal wrote a terrific piece last week about previews, and how problems that shows encounter during the several weeks of previews are exposed more in an online world than they were a decade ago.
Leading man flubbing his lines? It’ll be all over the boards. Problems in Act II? Expect a blog about it. Set come crashing down on the ensemble? Well, in that case, you’ve got bigger problems than the boards and the blogs.
There’s a lot of people out there that are jumping up and down, throwing tantrums that two year olds would be proud of, saying, “You can’t review previews! These people shouldn’t be talking about previews!”
To that I say . . . here’s a bottle of milk and a blanket, now get over it.
As much as we might not like our shows facing quicker criticism from audiences than ever before (and a few of mine have faced some harsh online attacks), there is nothing we can do about it. Online word of mouth is the new Word of Mouth, and there’s nothing you can do to get in its way. Can you imagine if any of the people upset about “preview reviews” went up to a group of folks at a Starbucks who were trashing a preview of a play and said, “You can’t talk about that show, it was a preview!”
The group would laugh, and probably trash the show even more.
Word of Mouth used to be invisible, which is why no one complained about stopping people from “chatting” about shows in previews. The internet gives us (and others) a chance to see the formerly invisible force, which is why so many people want to stop it.
But you can’t. We all need to realize that Online Word of Mouth and Traditional Word of Mouth have merged into one stronger and faster force of customer communication.
Critics, of course, who work for publications and are given free tickets, are subject to regulation. One of the reasons I helped form the ITBA, was in the hopes that the new media warriors (aka The Bloggers) could get the same access as critics, which would give the shows a chance to reach a new audience, but with some control over when the bloggers were seeing the shows.
But if your chatters are paying for a ticket, you can’t stop the e-talkin’, so I wouldn’t even try.