A Wish for 2024-25

by Lynn on January 12, 2024

in The Passionate Playgoer

Happy New Year.

The new year of theatre is starting slowly so now is a good time for my wish for 2024-25. Not world peace—that’s impossible. I wish for something much easier.

I would like theatre artistic directors, theatre producers, creators etc. to talk to each other seriously about solving the endless problem of double, triple and quadruple booking your opening nights. If you don’t talk to each other at least a year in advance of organizing your seasons, shows, even one-off productions and opening dates, you are doomed to continue to repeat this difficult situation. It is frustrating to those of us who support you.

I don’t get the sense that theatre towns like New York, London and Chicago for example,  have this problem. They pick an opening night and everybody else steers clear of it. In New York a Broadway/Off-Broadway opening night is noted in a book and once there, no other theatre picks that date.

That said, it benefits everybody, especially your theatre company, that you give yourself the best chance of attracting the biggest audience for your opening and after. You can’t do that if you are so frequently double, triple and quadrupling your opening nights. Your core donors and supportive audiences support more than one company. Make it easier for them to attend the opening by scattering them over the week—and not just a Wednesday and Thursday. If Tarragon traditionally has their openings on Wednesday, steer clear of Wednesdays. Canadian Stage has their openings on Thursdays. Steer clear.

Almost all of you belong to the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts (TAPA) and pay dues to be Dora eligible. There used to be an Opening Night Directory. Time and time again, the same date was noted as the opening night. The mind boggles. I guess in total frustration TAPA did away with the Opening Night Directory a few years ago. I thought it was an invaluable tool.  

In the ‘olden days’ when there was a robust media covering openings the aim was to have a review in on a Thursday to be timely. We now have a decimated media with a lot of bloggers trying to fill in the gap. Reviews are posted often quickly, but more than not, slower depending on the blogger’s timetable. It’s not carved in stone that the media night and the opening night be the same. It’s not carved in stone that you have to open on a Wednesday or a Thursday. (It’s also not carved in stone that you can’t open your season during the Toronto International Film Festival—Crow’s Theatre and AD Chris Abraham have done really well opening their season during TIFF).

Mirvish Productions has openings on Sunday afternoons. La Bête from Talk Is Free Theatre in Barrie will have its opening at Harbourfront on Monday, March 4. Be creative!

I know the season is finite. I know you all have to timetable your show(s) according to when you get the theatre and the actor’s availability and the union rules governing your runs. But if you all don’t talk to each other to co-ordinate you are doomed to repeat the awful event of two opening nights etc. for good plays at the same time!

Your publicists are trying to be pro-active by providing the exact opening night dates for the whole year so they can be noted and reserved. Other publicists send out invites more than the usual 10 days in advance of the opening, to secure reviewers for their openings. If it’s double booked one has to juggle by coming the second, third or even fourth night of the run. I don’t think that’s helpful for getting an audience. Yes, word of mouth is important, so is having a timely, thoughtful review to get the word out.

How does the Stratford Festival and the Shaw Festival manage not to double book their many openings? They actually talk to each other the year before. Why can’t/don’t you do the same. They are colleagues.  

Talk to each other. All of you should have a good lunch at a round table for easy talking. Hash it out. Yes, it’s complicated. That’s the world you live in and you solve every complication from COVID to cancellations to shut downs. You solve it. Please solve this once and for all.

Happy New Year.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Evan Bawtinheimer January 12, 2024 at 12:43 am

Hi Lynn,

For us non-reviewers and non-bloggers, what difference does the opening night make compared to any other night?
Is it just for the sake of a timely review, or is there something more to it?
In all my years of seeing theatre, I don’t think I’ve ever been to an opening night, except maybe for a Fringe show.
Am I missing some grand event?
Should I start seeing more opening nights?