The Power of a Simple Q&A

Imagine if you could produce a service that enhances consumers’ experiences in the theatre across the board. Not only does it focus on experienced theatregoers but it also provides opportunities to encourage new people into the theatre at the same time. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Well, MTC are already doing it!

Private Lives

As part of the opening play in their Mainstage season for 2014, Private Lives, Melbourne Theatre Company (MTC) hold a Production Briefing in the week before the play opens. That Production Briefing just happened to be tonight and I’ll give you a little insight into what it involved.

The audience were treated to a panel of creative from the upcoming show including the Director, Assistant Director, Musical Director, Lighting Designer, Set and Costume Designer, Vocal Coach and the five actors from the play (Lucy Durack, Leon Ford, Nadine Garner, Julie Forsyth and John Leary).

This panel were then led in a discussion about the play and their interpretation and experience moulding the play onto the stage before a rather extensive Q&A section with the audience where a huge range of questions were asked. And you don’t need to be a play devote to participate. I have had limited experience with plays and I was able to participate in the Q&A and even understand the questions that some of the more experienced in the audience were asking.

There are three brilliant things about this extra additional component before the play opens.

Firstly, it was free. As a result, there is no monetary risk in attending, the only risk consumers are staking is their time – and if they don’t get value from the Briefing they are able to duck out quietly. So essentially, very little risk in attending.

Secondly, it provides theatre die-hards with an opportunity to explore the play on a deeper level during the Q&A component. If you want to ask about the nuances of a certain component you are welcome to (although all the questions were rather general and fun rather than deeply probing).

Thirdly, if you have never been to the theatre or have very little experience with plays (like myself) there isn’t any problem. The actors and creative designers provided a great grounding for the play and were most useful in providing contextual and historical understanding for what audiences would see and why they would see it. An incredibly useful way to decrease any of the risk that an audience member may feel if they weren’t sure whether they would enjoy the show!

While I often find points of contention in academic entertainment marketing theory, this experience proves the one idea with which I 100% agree. If you give audiences the opportunity to understand the show they are about to see, their risk will dissipate and they will enjoy the experience more. And after this crash course in the Noel Coward play, Private Lives, I will most definitely leave the theatre having enjoyed the show more than if I wasn’t given this opportunity today.

Other entertainment branches are big on panel shows providing background information on events audiences members are about to see (think Before the Game for the AFL). It is time everyone across the competitive entertainment field does it too and follows the fantastic lead set by the Melbourne Theatre Company to provide audience members with the best experience possible!