Friday, February 20, 2009

Friday Dance Party: PIRATES!!

I love this clip from The Pirates of Penzance production in Central Park, a show so successful, it moved to Broadway for a multi-year run. They made a film of the show, too, but I've chosen the clip below to share, though it is grainier than the corresponding clip in the movie. I chose it because the presence of the audience is clearly exciting the performers to higher heights. Almost without exception, when I see a stage production taped live before an audience, then a film of the same piece taped in a studio, the stage production wins out. Though it necessarily has cheaper production values, the excitement generated by the audience infects the performers, and the viewers. I also enjoy this clip for the presence of Tony Azito (the chief policeman) and especially, Kevin Kline. I wrote a while ago about seeing Kline for the first time in On the Twentieth Century, and here, he's a dynamo.

Naturally, as I'm occupied this week with the preview and opening performances of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (see entry below), this clip came to mind because it includes pirates. Tom Stoppard has cleverly interpolated piracy into his riff on Hamlet, and they play a small but pivotal role in the proceedings.

Sort of.

Anyway, for this week's Dance Party (and finally, there is a bit of dance in this one, or at least, marching), enjoy Kline and Company as they belt the hell out of "With Cat-Like Tread" from Shakespeare In The Park's The Pirates of Penzance:

The Politics of the Preview

It's a good thing I'm not in charge of theatre administration, because I would never have come
up with the clever way the NC Stage folks are presenting our previews. Each day this week, a new incentive encourages audiences to pop in to see the new show. We had an invitational dress on Tuesday, attended by about 30 people who, I'm told, always come to this performance. The first time in front of an audience is often an awkward one, especially with a comedy such as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, a language-heavy piece with existential overtones. As a result, we started with a whimper rather than a bang. As the performance progressed, however, the audience warmed up a bit, and were quite nice by the time they got used to this odd world we were introducing. Wednesday's show
was Pay-what-You-Can, a enticement commonly used to beef up the house during the preview period. It was a large and friendly crowd, again, I'm told, made up of folks who always attend this event. They "got" the play from start to finish, and I have a hunch they were the various artists, performers, and literary loons who populate Asheville. Thursday night, the theatre hosted a Happy Hour before the show (actually, Hour and a Half), and the attendees were already lined up outside the lobby when I arrived at the theatre at 6. Sated with munchies and wine, they were another nice house. Tonight, Friday, is the Talk-Back performance, and no, that does not mean the audience is encouraged to shout at the actors during the show. After the curtain comes down, viewers are invited to hang around and ask questions, give feedback, etc, to the cast and director. I'm told that, here again, the same crowd tends to come to this performance during the run.

So NCStage has really come up with some creative ways to fill the houses before the show's official opening. It puts a lot of the pressure off the Big Night, which will seem like performance #5 to the cast, rather than #1. We've learned a lot this week from our audiences, and each night before the show, the cast has assembled to tweak certain moments and, hopefully, improve.

So far, so good!