Friday, June 03, 2011

Club vs Theater

This could be one of the strangest venues to do my show ever conceived. The people are really enjoying it and we receive a standing ovation nearly every show. I was told that the one time I didn't see them stand they stood for a second curtain call that I did not take. But it is a difficult venue to say the least. It used to be a very large comedy club until the producers turned it into a theatre. It has all the things a theatre should, but the front three rows are still tables. Behind the tables there is tiered theatrical seating. They don't have a liquor license yet so they BYOB. Some people are coming to a club and others are coming to a theatre. John and I have tried to figure it out and just when we think that we have some solid trends the audience makes a turn. Ultimately I think they are expecting my nightclub show and not "The Two and Only".
Tonight lead me to believe that is the case. Over the years of doing clubs I was always amazed that a Friday night audience was never as good as most every other audience of the week. One would expect it to be, since it is the beginning of the weekend, Thank God it's Friday is the battle cry. But consistently that was not the case in a club. The Thursday night and Saturday night would surpass the reaction to Friday every time. It seems that an audience comes to a club on a Friday night completely worn out from the week.
I never noticed the Friday night affect with a theatre crowd. The reason you go to a theatre is different than why you go to a club. It seems like a theatre evening is planned for a Friday night experience and the theatrical audience comes with a sense of renewed energy. Fridays were always one of the best crowds leading into the week end at the theaters we have played. Now that we have had a few Fridays to compare that reaction here, it is definitely a club crowd that is coming. In fact one of the front tables tonight requested the center front because they wanted to be picked on during the show. That's not what this show is about. As with any theatrical production there is a fourth wall and the audience is more of an observer. Tonight they were certainly observers, but not in the most pleasant way. This could have been the strangest crowd we have had during this run, or any other for that matter.
They were so un-responsive I decided that to keep my head in the game I had to invent another show that could co-exist with the one the cadavers were watching. So I threw inside lines to the staff and particularly John, who knows the show better than me. Everything was going over their heads but the creative stuff was a coded show for the theatre workers who enjoyed it to the max. I got some huge laughs from the back of the house where they watch from and occasionally the audience would have enough energy to join in. Mainly they stared and I wondered at one point if I had inadvertently hypnotized them. It was the theatrical equivalent of pouring concrete.
Yet at the end they stood and cheered, left notes of congratulation and left with great memories. There has not been a disparaging comment or a dissatisfied customer to date. Go figure. I guess by the time I am done I have turned a nightclub audience into a theatrical audience, but it takes so much energy to do that I am exhausted afterwards. I feel like Rocky facing Apollo Creed.
I chalk it up to experience. I realize that I have been so lucky to perform in so many venues it is hard to find one that ultimately confounds me. You only grow by challenging yourself to blaze new trails. This is one challenge that I have never faced with this show before, and as tough as it is, I know it is good for me to figure it out. It is like a tough class in college, hard to get through but the knowledge you gain from it is invaluable.
Soon there will not be a situation with this show that I have not faced before. I am not sure if that means I am done or it is just the beginning of a new opportunity. Either way, I love telling this story. I am getting better at telling it with every chance I get to repeat it. There is a great quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln. He supposedly said, "There have been bad times and great times as I look back on my life. At the time I was going through them I didn't know the difference."
As you were,


Roomie said...

And we always gain something different from you and your show....always an amazing look at your talent and now, does that compliment get you to let us in on the "different situation" that is facing you in the future? Hope all goes well there and we send our love to you and the kids....
Carry on, as only you can....

Bob Conrad said...

Keep your chin up. Steve Allan used to say, "I'm too hip for the crowd".