Remember SOMEWHERE IN TIME this spring at PCS?
The well-oiled Brodway bound (we hope) show touched down in Portland in May 2013 and was thoroughly impressive. The story may be a little bit old-fashioned. But the execution was PERFECT. A good reminder to Portlanders to up their game.
While watching the flurry of activity around the Armory as SOMEWHERE ramped up, as Broadway types zigged and zagged through the cafe, smoked cigarettes (memo to theatre people: CIGARETTES WILL KILL YOUR ASS DEADER THAN A REVIVAL OF ARSENIC AND OLD LAC. SET TO MUSIC. WITH DANCING.), and wore black, you may have noticed one guy who stood out like an investment banker at a zoo bombers gathering.
He was the one immaculately dressed with perfect hair. You spotted him and immediately did a double take. Huh? Because – well, he’s not the type you’re used to seeing around Portland. No half-soaked bike dud lycra, no plugs in the ears, no facial Timbers tat.
No chest deep goatee with a forest of origami pets (all with their own names) living in it.
Clearly this guy was NOT a Portlander. Though I’m sure he could down a few nuclear strength espressos at Albina Press with the best of ’em. He looked like he was off to host the Tonys.
That was producer Ken Davenport.
The point: Davenport writes a daily blog that has become one of my must read items. He is relentlessly focused on the audience, what they want, why they come, and how to create successful shows. And the man has a sharp keyboard finger. You can easily sign up to receive his daily missive. It’s short and sweet (like any communication to the audience should be) and is guaranteed to provoke some thoughts. And laughs. Check it out.
The story goes, some playwright used to keep a sign hanging on the wall above his desk (remember back when people had desks?) that read:
“And what is THE AUDIENCE doing all this time?”
Ah yes, the audience. Remember them?
During your new playwright’s brilliant stream of consciousness monologue, when the lead character recites Jane Austen or turns into a bird, then instantly becomes a world class oboist, plays the oboe on stage for a while (QUITE a while), then is transported to heaven where she talks directly to the ghost of her ex boyfriend’s Uncle (who tells her she is brilliant and will find true love) – during all of that: What is THE AUDIENCE doing?
They are likely trying to read their smart phone under a jacket and see if there is anything else on around town they can still make if they flee the room.
What’s in it for THE AUDIENCE?
That is the number one question behind successful performing arts.
Not what’s in it for the playwright, or the actor, or the director.
What’s in it for the AUDIENCE?
Stay focused on that question, and all your dreams will come true.
Except the ARSENIC AND OLD LACE revival.
And to help you stay focused, read Ken Davenport.