Sunday, December 27, 2009

Curtain Creep - A Growing Problem?

Don Aucoin, in his year end wrap up for the Boston Globe:

Let me close with a harrumph: During this four-month stint in the critic’s chair, I’ve been surprised by how often plays begin 10 to 15 minutes late. Really, what’s the deal, people? You are doing the on-time audience members a disservice by making them wait till the latecomers finally stroll down the aisle.

Tardy starts have become such a routine part of the Boston theatergoing experience that when I went to Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven earlier this month to see Athol Fugard’s “Have You Seen Us?,’’ I was startled when it actually . . . started on time. What a concept!

And Leonard Jacobs at The Clyde Fitch Report registers a very similar complaint:

No, I didn’t expect Love’s Labour’s to begin precisely at 8pm, given the fact that New York theater has been suffering more and more from a chronic case of CST — let’s actually dub it TST, or Theater Standard Time, given how widespread 8:12pm or even 8:15pm curtains are on Broadway of late. However, I did expect the performance to be underway no later than 8:10pm or so, given that the running time of this particular production is slightly less than three hours.

‘Twasn’t to be. First 8:05pm passed. Then 8:10pm. An announcement was made that, due to a sold-out house, the curtain would be held until 8:15pm. I don’t know what clock the house management at the Schimmel Center was going by, but my perfectly accurate Kenneth Cole watch zipped past 8:20pm and was heading right for 8:25pm when the play finally began.


David Schrag said...

It would be good to hear from some house managers on this topic. I wonder ... if you have a solid line of people coming walking through the door, how do you know when to say "sorry, I'm cutting off the line right here; everyone else in line will have to wait until the end of scene 1?" And with so many plays these days having no breaks, seating latecomers can be quite difficult. A suggestion to theaters: Take a cue from the movies and schedule some pre-show entertainment to keep the crowd happy.

Ian Thal said...

My experience in live theatre is that everything starts ten minutes after the scheduled time. Except in very rare instances, I've not seen things drift towards 15 minutes after.

David's suggestion is certainly a fine notion, but it would require some thematic effort by the A.D.s or from to whomever the A.D. delegates such responsibility. Some pieces would not lend themselves well to "an opening act." And even then, wouldn't we be then licensing rude behavior towards the "opener?" with late arrivals?