After-show receiving lines

March 11, 2009
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There's a lively--to say the least--discussion going on over at www.indianaauditions.com (primarily frequented by those in the local theater community). And I thought I'd drag the topic over here, where most of our readers aren't in the business, for your perspectives.

The subject: the practice of some theaters of including a receiving line after the show.

How do you feel, after a play or concert, when you find actors in costume lined up to talk to you after the final curtain?

a.) A welcome chance to share your thoughts and/or appreciation with the talent?

b.) An awkward gauntlet to be moved through as quickly as possible?

c.) Something else?

Granted, the practice is primarily used in community theaters, but Theatre on the Square also always seems to have cast members lining its narrow exit.

Your thoughts?
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  • I will be interested to hear what people have to say here, too.

    The passionate discussion on IA got me thinking about about market research in general. I go to a LOT of shows; I don't remember ever being asked to complete a survey of any kind at any of Indy's 50 or so theatres. Do you, Lou?

    Mind you, I am weary of filling out surveys. Still...I don't see how any organizations can know what their patrons, or more importantly, their prospective patrons want without, you know, ASKING them.

    Hope Baugh
    Indy Theatre Habit
  • I meant to write I am weary of filling out surveys for non-theatre organizations.

    Hope
  • We don't do enjoyed it lines at Beef & Boards with the exception of our children's theatre productions, however; many dinner theatres across the country do. So I won't offer my personal opinion of the practice, but I did want to address the survey question from Hope Baugh. Miss Baugh as well as Mr. Harry regularly attend theatre events to offer their written review of what they saw. This usually happens early in the run of any particular production. We survey our audience, but not on press night. We regularly ask our audience for their input as to what shows they would like to see in the next season. Lou and Hope would not have known this, as the survey is not done at the time they visit our theatre. Perhaps this is the case at other theatre's as well. Just a thought.
  • Thanks for the info, Eddie! Your comment reminded me of a B&B practice that I admired even before I became a theatre blogger: that of asking your audience for a show of hands during the curtain talk for who belongs to the VIP club. It raises awareness of the VIP club among theatre-goers and gives you (theatre manager) a sense of how well the VIP program is working.

    At Storytelling Arts of Indiana events I've noticed that the MC always asks how many people have been to a Storytelling Arts event before, as well as how many are there for the first time. Both groups get to feel recognized and welcomed, AND the managers get a sense of who their audience is.

    At the Indiana Repertory Theatre, I think the person giving the curtain talk usually asks for a show of hands of season ticket holders.

    At more than one arts event I have seen the presenter ask for a show of hands for where the people heard about the event. Raise your hand if you heard about this event on Lou Harry's IBJ blog...

    I love raise your hand surveys, especially when they involved only one or two questions, because even though they are not scientific or statistically reliable or whatever, they are useful and fun. More importantly, they help to focus the energy of the audience and prepare everyone for the community-building experience that is live performance art.

    Hope Baugh
    Indy Theatre Habit
  • If I wanted to greet cast members I would make an effort to go backstage. The practice by community theatres to line their casts up in the exit area after a show is obnoxious and childish.
  • I think the practice of the line-up may indicate the difference between the professional arts and avocational arts. For community theatre performers their pay is the reaction of the audience and their friends/family. I know whenever I have directed in a community setting I have asked that this not be the case as I feel the performers need to be treated with professional expectations. Plus, I feel like the mood of a good show shouldn't be detracted from with the
  • ...lineup

    We must remember that those who perform avocationally only have the reward of the emotional response of the audience. Hence, I believe it should be up to each theatre and each director OR the culture of the organization. You wouldn't see this at a professional production -- in fact, for our shows you must be on an approved list to get back stage.

    I encourage people to come to Indianapolis Opera's THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE this weekend --- www.indyopera.org.
  • I usually dodge the receiving line, but know many fans jump at the chance to mingle with the stars after the show. It definitely adds to their theatrical experience. I’d be curious to hear what the actors have to say about it... A musician once told me he dislikes these lines, because he’s spent by the end of the show and would rather head home.
  • I think the applause after the show is sufficient to show appreciation. It also detracts from the willing suspension of disbelief to see the actors up close and personal costumed, sweaty and in their stage make-up. The show is over - just let me out!
  • Awful, painful, annoying, etc.
  • It was a fascinating reading through the posts. Since I am not currently a member of the website I thought I would share my thoughts here.

    I have very mixed feelings on this. After seeing a show that really moved me because of its content and performances I reveled in the opportunity to meet the cast. One show that really stands out in my mind is about 5 years back when Theatre on the Square did Last Session. The opportunity to meet Steve Schalchlin after the show made the experience that much better. Unfortunately, this occurrences are probably in the minority and I look for a way to skip past the receiving line without having to interact with most of the cast.

    What I feel would be a happy medium is to have the cast come out after the show to the lobby, but not have a formal receiving line. This would provide an opportunity to the audience to interact with the cast without forcing it. I had just joined the board when it was decided that receiving lines would be a tradition at TOTS.

    To answer the questions that were all throughout the discussion it started around 2001. It was not so that the performers could thank the audience but intended to just enhance the overall experience. I'm not sure that goal was achieved. Since then I know it has been a topic discussed several times about whether it should continue. I think the discussion thread sums up the feelings on both sides very well. Perhaps it will reach the current board for them to consider making a change. To protect both the audience and cast from the uncomfortable exchanges that frequently occur.
  • Gosh, Hope, I don't know how you've missed being surveyed at the Phoenix. I can bring you the surveys you've missed (hahaha). Actually, much of our recent surveying has been conducted outside of show nights, in part so we can include people who are NOT coming to our plays to ask them what we might do to entice them to attend.
  • Didn't read the link -- but, my two cents is that some of the magic would be lost by seeing the performers still in costume after the show was over.
  • So, yeah, I go for B) awkward gauntlet --

    Come to think of it, the only time I remember seeing anything like this was after 9/11 when performers came through the aisles with collection buckets for Red Cross / Family Victims etc.
  • I like having a choice; I don't like being forced to go through a receiving line of actors to get through an exit, for example. I like how the IRT invites the audience to stay and have a Q&A with the actors; those who don't want to do so can leave. Sometimes the actors stay in costume and hang out in the lobby, but you can easily exit without feeling as though you're shunning them.
  • I find it awkward. I imagine it's awkward for the cast members too.

    By the way, why does everything I see in Indy get a standing ovation?
  • I hate receiving lines, whether at the theater or at the funeral home. I agree with David. If the actors want to come out to the lobby after the show, why do they need to line up? Just mingle.
  • Dude,
    Thanks for the question. The standing ovation issue deserves its own post. We'll talk about that another time.
    Lou
  • Sharon - Hah! Bring on the surveys! Actually, I always feel I can just talk to you or Bryan Fonseca if I have a concern or question about what the Phoenix is doing. I appreciate that openness and respect.

    'Speaking of respect...Eddie, I'm sorry I didn't call you Mr. Curry above, after you called me Miss Baugh!

    I also wanted to say to everyone here on Lou's blog that I do enjoy going to Theatre on the Square (TOTS), in spite of hating their no-escape receiving line. I wouldn't let a little receiving line keep me from seeing one of their shows.

    Hope Baugh
    Indy Theatre Habit
  • Ok, so if it’s a great show, i’m cool with the meet/greet. but, what happens if the work well, is awful? Now that is embarassing and awkward. Ultimately then, I think it depends on the quality and success of a performance. Perhaps if the cast/director/decision-maker judges the merits of a receiving line based on audience reaction, a potentially uncomfortable situation can be avoided
    -Cindy.
  • Luckily, the local community theatres I attend do not participate in this type of activity. If they did, I would likely not return. I am quite shy and not comfortable meeting new people. If unexpectedly forced into this type of situation, I would be apalled. I would certainly take this into consideration when deciding whether or not to purchase tickets.
  • As a former theater person (technical, not acting) in college, community and professional theater, I can say that the actors I knew preferred to do their receiving after they were able to remove their makeup, clean up a bit and get into their street clothes. Some theaters I was associated with sponsored such an opportunity about an hour or so after the performance ended--there was no gauntlet--those who didn't want to meet the cast could leave, and those to whom it mattered would stick around. Kind of like a more civilized version of waiting outside the stage door for an autograph, and the mood created by the performance is not broken. I don't know about anyone else, but I want to congratulate the actor, not the character.

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