When it comes to theatre I avoid press releases and critiques like the plague. I have to.
I tried to get someone to tell me the ending of Rise of Planet of the Apes and he refused. “I wouldn’t want to ruin it for you.” Ruin it, I begged. It’ll save me the time.
Every time I go to the movies, I have the same problem. If the film is scheduled to start at 2:35, I have to be there at 2:34. Otherwise I get annoyed. Woody Allen suffered from the same condition in Annie Hall. “I gotta see a picture exactly from start to finish,” says Alvy Singer, Woody’s alter-ego. “I can’t help it, I’m anal.” (Annie Hall’s response: “That’s a polite word for what you are.”) I would argue that if Woody Allen is anal, I’m the colon itself. I don’t only need to see the picture from start to finish; I need to see the previews too. After all, if I don’t force myself to watch previews, how am I ever to decide what movies I don’t want to see?
I never feel that sitting in a theatre is a waste of time. Even if the show's bad, there's always something I can take away from it. Since I don’t work in film (yet) I don't feel this way towards the movies: I approach every movie with the sneaky suspicion that it’s going to be a supreme waste of time. Consequently, I adore watching previews and reading movie critiques: I’m looking for just enough spoilers so I can stay home. Just the other day, I tried to get someone to tell me the ending of Rise of Planet of the Apes and he refused. “I wouldn’t want to ruin it for you.” Ruin it, I begged. It’ll save me the time.
I’m not going to try to give lessons about writing press releases: next to sonnets, it’s the one form of writing at which I’ve never been able to excel.
When it comes to theatre, on the other hand, I avoid press releases and critiques like the plague. I have to. I’m not going to try to give lessons about writing press releases: next to sonnets, it’s the one form of writing at which I’ve never been able to excel. But my most common observation about theatrical press releases, previews and critiques is that they give away far too much of the plot. Advertising is supposed to lead the horse to water: it’s not supposed to reveal whether the water is safe to drink.
In the interest of going into the theatre with an open mind, I try to avoid knowing anything about the show. This creates problems with my girlfriend, who invariably needs to decide whether or not she wants to tag along on my theatrical excursions. "What's this one about?" she asks. “I don’t know,” I say. “And I don’t want to know.” Unlike the movies, in the theatre I want to be surprised. I prefer to walk into Waiting for Godot not knowing that Godot isn’t someone worth waiting for – that is, after all, the way the play is meant to be seen.
I will continue to crave previews even as I avoid Centaur’s latest batch of press kits.
I don’t know exactly when we decided it wasn’t criminal to give too much information away. At some point, I suppose, we all become addicted to dramatic irony, that literary convention where the audience knows something the characters don’t. Unfortunately, in the case of classical texts, the dramatic irony is often unintentional. We aren’t supposed to know that Hamlet’s uncle really did kill his brother; nor are we supposed to know that Godot isn’t worth waiting for. The popularity of these plays has altered them for us forever; I envy the person who, having lived on a desert island for the last hundred years, gets to see Hamlet for the first time. They will experience the play as it was meant to be seen; the rest of us are merely watching it from an almost academic distance.
As for the movies…well, we all know that most movies are crap. This is one of those unspoken certainties that sits alongside death and taxes. For this reason I will continue to crave previews even as I avoid Centaur’s latest batch of press kits. All of which is to say that in the coming season, if you want me to see your show, don’t tell me a thing. Just send me the date and time.