This above all else you must not do

Moses, add one more.
Moses, add one more.

High atop those stern, chiseled all caps reminders of how mere mortals should live down here on earth, one additional commandment would not be out of place – at least when it comes to playwriting.

YOU SHALL NOT WASTE THE AUDIENCE’S TIME

The audience is busy. They have plenty to do out there in the world. And when 1,000 or 200 or even 40 of them gather to bear witness to a live performance event, it had better be worth their time and effort.

Putting the word out, telling the audience you have something for them, and then watching them turn out in good faith only to find that there’s not much on offer – this destroys the audience’s confidence and makes them less likely to come back the next time. It is in no one’s interest to do this. It is far better to wait until there IS something worth the audience’s time, and then put a show on.

You can tell when the audience is wondering why they are there during a show. People look around, shift in their seats, read the program, fall asleep, etc. We all know the feeling of being in the audience when what’s happening on stage simply doesn’t seem coherent, refined, or significant enough for our collective attention. Not good.

The experience of going to the theatre has to be exceptional. It has to be more exciting than staying home. It has to be more interesting than the conversation you could have with whoever happens to be sitting to your left and right on any given night as the lights to down.

And frankly, that is a pretty high bar.

What do you have for them?
They showed up. So where’s the show?