Playbill 2.0

This week in our Festival News, we cover The Sun‘s report on the new printed programs coming to New York’s Metropolitan Opera. Why is the Met changing their format and approach? Under the new leadership of Peter Gelb, this largest of performing arts institutions in America has discovered that audiences enjoy having easily accessible context for a performance.

Along with the other constituent theaters at Lincoln Center, management knows that audiences do not have a lot of time to read lengthy essays. Everyone is sitting there waiting for the performance to begin. So, short writings — on the work’s history, author/composer background, significance of the work, current production approach, performers, and creative team — provide a context to enhance the enjoyment and understanding of the work.

Need less to say, this is a most welcome addition to the audience experience. It is, in fact, fertilized by the same soil that we have at KadmusArts: the more you know about a work of art, the more directly you can navigate its heart and soul.

In the article, the model cited for the Met’s new endeavor is a magazine. Isn’t that a bit, well, old-fashioned? Surely, the collection of material appears to be closer to the web: here are quick sources for detailed background; here is a place to go if you want to know more; if you are interested in x, then we think you might be interested in y; and, if you want to add to our information and point of view, here is how to become a participant.

An audience participates in a performing arts event by being in the same room. (As a very wise man once said, there are only two absolute essentials to theatre: an actor and an audience.) All arts institutions want to make their audiences participants – and then stakeholders – in the event. This kind of connection to an event builds audiences and engenders loyalty to the institution itself.

Providing rich context extends this growth opportunity and institutional service. The next step is for arts institutions to provide platforms for interaction: to break down the barriers between the professional (artist) and the amateur (audience) for a genuine mutuality of experience and exchange.

So, bravo to the Met, and throw flowers on the stage for encouragement to the next round.

- Bill Reichblum

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