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February 10, 2011

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Leigh Hile

Did you happen to read Matt Freeman's assessment of the preview question on his blog? http://matthewfreeman.blogspot.com/2011/01/completed-vision.html

It's very well-put and persuasvie, and he makes a lot of the same points you've made here - check it out, if you haven't already.

isaac

Yes, I did read it! THanks for reminding of it, Leigh!

Leigh Hile

No problem. Oh, and as to this: "The pitiless part of me feels that if you can't conceptualize a show so that it is realizable in the amount of time you have to realize it, you're bad at your job. And then other parts of me find that heartless and anti-art."

I don't think that's anti-art at all. Okay, if you're up in your attic painting or writing poems for yourself and yourself alone, then sure, take all the time you need. But if you're creating with any kind of audience in mind (and in theater, how can you not be?) then you have a certain obligation to them, and realizing the show in the time allotted to do so certainly falls within the reasonable realm of that obligation. If you ask me.

Adam

I think it's ok to work out the kinks in front of an audience as long as the preview performances are clearly defined AND priced accordingly. At my day job a preview can cost 40% less then a regular price ticket (especially when we do additional discounts for previews, which we often do) If you don't do those things AND you monkey around with the press then all bets are off.

Carl Benson

"To put it in manufacturing terms (risky, I know!) they're putting out shoddy, unfinished product deliberately in order to cut costs. We don't like it when any other industry does that. Why should we tolerate it with theater?"

Well said. As Adam points out above, there are some common sense guidelines that should be followed if a show is being previewed - the ones he lists above seem very reasonable.

That said, how many other industries make a practice of releasing unfinished products? Even other artistic mediums do not make a habit of this. An easy example is a painter - typically he or she does not have an opening at a gallery then remove pieces the next day to rework them. When they are finished, they are finished. Out here in SF, the SF Ballet just had their big Gala opening in late January - there were no preview performances (at least not ones open to the public). They got their product together, then premiered the shit out of it with a giant money making Gala.

My last cynical thought is that it's a business deal that saves both industries money so they perpetuate an idea that doesn't, to me anyway, make a whole lot of sense. As Isaac notes, media outlets save on picking up the tab for tickets and producers save on potential losses from a bad review on opening night, so even though they know this practice is not reasonable, both have a financial incentive to keep it going.

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