With just one more show to go in its inaugural season, Left Edge Theater has scheduled a season two announcement party like none other. On February 26 and 27, the decision of which shows the company stages next will be determined by audience vote.
It’s a clever idea, and it was bound to happen eventually.
It all began a few years back, this trend of throwing gala “Season Announcement Parties,” and the practice has quickly become a sturdy mechanism for building enthusiasm and (sometimes) raising a bit of extra cash, too. Though roughly half of the Season Announcement events surveyed for this news item were offered for free, many are used as fundraisers for the company in question, and that includes Left Edge, which is charging $20 a head for their event.
More on what will happen at that event in a moment.
Whether to raise funds or raise awareness, the “season Announcement” trend has found as many different spins and variations as there are theater companies. Custom Made Theatre, in San Francisco, staged their “event” solely on social media, announcing one new show twice each day for a week, generate valuable feedback (and lots of money-in-the-bank “shares”) with each new play announced. The award-winning Profile Theater of Portland, Oregon devotes each full season to the work of a single playwright, and their annual party announcing the following year’s playwright has become a major happening in a town that knows how to make happenings major. The tactics taken by other companies other companies include staging
performances of songs and scenes from the just-announced shows, or incorporating the distribution of awards to VIP artists or outstanding volunteers. The point is, the better companies do at build excitement and interest for the announcement party, the more excitement and interest is carried over into the upcoming season.
Which brings us back to Left Edge Theater.
At their two-day-long event (another first, apparently) a cast of five actors will present staged readings of scenes from ten plays that are “under consideration” for the 2016/2017 season. After the presentation, a vote will be taken, though whether it will be secret ballot, show of hands, or some other method has not been revealed. The five shows that get the most votes will become the next season. The company feels confident that advance tickets for the “party” will sell out quickly, so enthusiastic has been the initial response to the recently-announced idea. Meanwhile, other North Bay Theater Companies should be watching closely. It seems that as the “trend” builds momentum, with more and more theaters using their season announcement the way high schools use pep rallies, we will see more and more innovation, whimsical fun, and sheer smart crowd psychology.
And to those companies who still announce their seasons quietly with a simple list of plays in a show program or a brief posting on their websitannouncement isn’t just news anymore, and it isn’t just about the quality of the shows being announced.
It’s now an opportunity, a chance to show the community how mush fun it can be just going to your theater. Because if you can have fun telling people about your new shows, then maybe the rest of us will believe that we’ll have fun going to see them.