In an effort to limit or eliminate the use of mobile phones during a production she had staged, a directing-focused student at the university where I teach decided to try a live curtain speech, as I had done before each performance of the last play I directed. Her show was a Chekhov one-act in an 80-seat “black box” theatre arranged in a thrust stage configuration, so the circumstances were different from those surrounding my spiel about six weeks earlier.
Her speech was somewhat different too, at least when I heard it–certainly it was far shorter. Its main similarity to mine, beyond asking the audience to keep their mobile devices off during the performance, was her statement that an audience member could spoil the experience of the play for others by using a phone. She said this far more concisely than I did. She didn’t embellish with thoughts about potentially distracting the cast or hurting their feelings, or with discussion of the two-way communication that makes live performance unique.
The director reported that giving the speech “was a little awkward for me,” especially at the opening performance when the lighting for it was not what she was expecting. “Honestly though it was easier than having to schedule a time to record a [pre-show announcement] since I could just work on [preparing for the curtain speech] on my own,” she wrote.
The results were good. I saw no phones in use at the matinée I attended, and the director reported that “I didn’t notice anyone on their cell phones and I haven’t heard anything in the contrary from any of the ushers or actors or anyone else” at any of the three performances. She said that at other productions she had attended as an audience member in the same space she had been distracted by students turning notebook pages as they took notes for assigned reviews. “I didn’t notice a problem” with that, she wrote, leading me to wonder if her speech had increased some audience members’ overall consideration for others seeing the play.
To me this student seemed a little nervous giving her speech, as I’m sure I did when I gave mine. Her bottom line assessment: “Overall, it was worth it!” Which was the same as mine had been.
If you use or hear a similar curtain speech, I would love to hear about it–and about the results. Please comment here or leave a message on The Director’s Vision Facebook page (facebook.com/thedirectorsvision). Thanks!