Friday, May 20, 2011

I HATE THEATRE - Curtain Speeches

A lone Greek man in a simple tunic approaches the front of a crowd at the amphitheatre. He places a simple clay box on the ground, looks up in silence waiting for the audience to become still. After clearing his throat, he speaks loudly so all patrons can hear and begins asking for drachmas, or bartering with chickens or services for trade for the opportunity to witness the historical storytelling reenactment of Πέρσαι. He asks the sheepherder to move his flock away from the entrance and mentions the kind philosopher in the back that provided, shelter, food and means for extending the artists' crafts. Thus the birth of the curtain speech.

Hate them or love them the curtain speech has been with us since the beginning. Most are probably delivered by greedy producer types who have to pay all the bills from the production and the company. But I guess it must be done. I have given and received many a curtain speech. Short and sweet are the best. Comedic yet witty are entertaining. But the curtain speech also sets the tone of the piece, the performing space and represents all involved in the production.

One thing I have learned….never say “Jeez” in a curtain speech. Coming from behind the curtain, I got blinded by a 100,000 watt spotlight. I shielded my eyes so I could see the edge of the stage and the six foot dropoff. With no microphone and under my breath I said “Jeez” and made a silly comment about the light and continued my curtain speech duties. Someone in the audience heard “Jesus” and was highly offended. Highly! They were offended to the point that I was asked several times to apologize. The politics of that story is another chapter. 
Note to self: add "Jeez" to George Carlin’s seven dirty words…

Common curtain speeches faux pas: Ask for money. Don’t invite me back to the same show unless its free or half price. I’ve paid my thirty bucks. Ask for money. And be careful if you ask me to spread the word about your show. I just might. Ask for money. And what about the concessions? I need a full list of snacks, cd’s, t-shirts, coloring books, hygiene products, and etc. Ask for money. And thanks to the fire department for adding an extra line or two about all the other ‘No Exits”. Then, ask for money.

Thirty or forty years ago it was the occasional doctor or judge who might have a pager for emergencies. You caught them in the lobby and dealt with it personally. Now everybody has something in their pocket that sings and vibrates. And I really like to be told that I’m in for a thrill or a big surprise. Or, to be told because of certain elements out of your control the performance stinks. Oh, and the more people on stage for the curtain speech the merrier. It is Oscar night.

Best curtain speech ever?  "Due to the low budget of our show, the people dressed in black on stage are there to make Peter Pan and Wendy flyyyy through the air."
Thanks. I hope that also explains why they are seated in the audience.
"Oh did I mention, we need money."

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