When should the curtain rise?

December 21, 2007
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Right now, I’m a bit bleary from a night dominated not by sleep but instead by dropping my daughters, nieces and assorted friends off at a midnight screening of “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” and picking them up again at 2:30 a.m.
A last ditch effort to be crowned Father of the Year? Perhaps.

Whether I win or lose that honor, it did get me thinking about timing. Movie theaters can throw in an occasional midnight screening to make attending a film seem more like an event (it worked for these kids). But what about performing arts groups? How much room is there to experiment with the standard 8 p.m. time—or the 2:30 or 3 p.m. matinee, for that matter?

A number of years ago, I attended a performance in Cleveland by a Night Kitchen Theatre in Cleveland. Targeted at twentysomethings, the group acknowledged the fact that many clubgoers don’t even get out the door until after 10. With that in mind, it created a theatrical series with (if memory serves) an 11 p.m. start time and shows that ran about an hour and 20 minutes. Ticket prices reflected the fringe nature of the show.

Here, IndyFringe has shown during its summer festival that, given proper motivation and marketing, audiences can accept non-standard showtimes and durations. And ComedySportz sometimes mixes it up, showtime wise. Even the ISO will throw an occasional scheduling curve.

So should some of the new companies sprouting up here in Indy consider taking more chances with such things?

Your thoughts?
ADVERTISEMENT
  • When I worked for Bloomington Playwrights Project a few years ago, we created a series of late night plays called the Dark Alley series. (I think they have retained the name of this series, even though they've moved to digs that aren't really on an alley anymore.) These were usually shorter pieces, with edgier and more experimental content and minimal tech requirements, which fit around whatever main show was being done. (There was only one stage, so the Dark Alley show couldn't be too intrusive.) Oh, and ticket prices were cheaper for DA shows.

    We also invited an IU-based sketch comedy group to do some of their performances in our space for late night shows, which was a great success.

    Offering content at odd hours offers lots of opportunities that arts organizations wouldn't otherwise have, like . . .

    - Extra revenue coming into the organization at times when otherwise nothing productive would be happening.

    - Wider opportunities to experiment with content that's farther outside the mainstram, or that you might not want to take a risk on within normal business hours (opportunity cost of lost regular patrons). Theatres could do more experimental shows, orchestras could try more avant-garde music and/or pop/rock crossover stuff, museums could shed the hush-hush atmosphere and cut loose a bit . . . etc. (IMA's doing this with their AMP offerings on Friday nights. I wonder how those are going.)

    - A chance to develop new or different audience/patron/customer bases. In the case of BPP, it was really cultivating the collegiate crowd - especially when the IU sketch comedy group came over. Getting people in to see one kind of content can cross-pollinate and generate interest in your other offerings.

    - A place for new talent within the organization or from outside to play around, grow and mature, and sharpen their skills for prime time . . . or develop their own niches that nobody had thought of before. (Young artists often have more talent than opportunity, especially when it comes to just getting into a venue.)

    Of course, the right circumstances need to be in place to make even trying odd-hour offerings worthwhile. (I'm talking mainly about late-night stuff here.) Demographics and logistics are big factors. At BPP, we obviously benefited from the proximity of lots of students and other university types hungry for offbeat entertainment, not to mention the general Bloomington boho population.

    Also, it helps to be close to the action, in terms of being in places where you can get collateral exposure just by being open when the nightlife hunters are out. You could make something like a late-night theatre series happen much more easily downtown or in Broad Ripple than in a suburb. (Castleton has potential, if anyone ever gets around to putting a theatre, museum, etc. around there. Just look at how successful the Music Mill has become in a short time.)

    I think it's a very good area for expansion and experimentation that might yield positive results for area arts organizations.
  • One of the first things I noticed about theater in Indy is that there are virtually no opportunities to double- or triple-up in a day. There is the occasional Saturday matinee, whcih can be follwed by a Saturday evening show, and there is the Alley on Sunday evenings that can follow a Sunday matinee. But these are rare. Once you have seen whatever is bring offered in the odd slot, it's a few weeks before something else is offered then.

    In Seattle I frequently saw four shows on a Saturday, and five were sometimes possible. This was not during the Fringe festival (when six or seven pieces could be seen in a day, because they were short). These were full two-act productions.

    Seattle has a large late-night scene, with shows starting at 2230 or 2300 (I prefered the latter, because they conflicted less with the 2000 mainstage shows). There were several ongoing series, with companies mounting 3-5 shows a year in the series - some using old TV scripts (like Twilight Zone), others of original work (Money and Run was up to ten or so episodes when I left, and Sex in Seattle was on episode 13). Shows would be offered Thursday-Sat at the late hour - after whatever was being put up on the mainstage at 2000 in the same venue (and after some cast members flew in from whatever they had been performing in at 2000 in some other theater). Occasionally a Thursday show woule be cancelled due to low attendance, but the Friday and Saturday shows virtually never were.

    In addition to straight plays, there are a monthly cabaret (first Friday) that has been going on for ten years or longer, and weekly improv shows in the late-night slot two nights a week.

    Some companies also perform a second time on Saturdays (in the late-night slot) so that other players can come see their shows - a prefrerance to working on Mondays for the same purpose.

    In 2005, a year in which I saw 236 performances, 28 of them were at 2200, 2230 or 2300 (and I was out of town 13 weekends, so I was averaging 0.7 late-night shows per week).
  • I remember TOTS having late performances, but that was another lifetime ago. Saw a very good performance of Love & Human Remains there that began at, I think, 11pm.

Post a comment to this blog

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
  1. I had read earlier this spring that Noodles & Co was going to open in the Fishers Marketplace (which is SR 37 and 131st St, not 141st St, just FYI). Any word on that? Also, do you happen to know what is being built in Carmel at Pennsylvania and Old Meridian? May just be an office building but I'm not sure.

  2. I'm sorry, but you are flat out wrong. There are few tracks in the world with the history of IMS and probably NO OTHER as widely known and recognized. I don't care what you think about the stat of Indy Car racing, these are pretty hard things to dispute.

  3. Also wondering if there is an update on the Brockway Pub-Danny Boy restaurant/taproom that was planned for the village as well?

  4. Why does the majority get to trample on the rights of the minority? You do realize that banning gay marriage does not rid the world of gay people, right? They are still going to be around and they are still going to continue to exist. The best way to get it all out of the spotlight? LEGALIZE IT! If gay marriage is legal, they will get to stop trying to push for it and you will get to stop seeing it all over the news. Why do Christians get to decide what is moral?? Why do you get to push your religion on others? How would legalizing gay marriage expose their lifestyle to your children? By the way, their lifestyle is going to continue whether gay marriage is legalized or not. It's been legal in Canada for quite a while now and they seem to be doing just fine. What about actual rules handed down by God? What about not working on Sundays? What about obeying your parents? What about adultery? These are in the 10 Commandments, the most important of God's rules. Yet they are all perfectly legal. What about divorce? Only God is allowed to dissolve a marriage so why don't you work hard to get divorce banned? Why do you get to pick and choose the parts of the Bible you care about?

  5. Look at the bright side. With the new Lowe's call center, that means 1000 jobs at $10 bucks an hour. IMS has to be drooling over all that disposable income. If those employees can save all their extra money after bills, in five years they can go to the race LIVE. Can you say attendance boost?

ADVERTISEMENT