Damage control

Tacking into the wind ... "far-fetched and wobbly!"
Tacking into the wind … “far-fetched and wobbly!”

Last week, we broke several non-musical attendance records. Best opening night, best opening week, best first matinee. This week, reservations are trending down.

It would be a mistake to blame our reversal of fortune on bad reviews, though. If the 500 people who saw the show last week had talked it up, we’d be feeling the effect of their enthusiasm now and, since we aren’t feeling the effect of their enthusiasm, my theory is as follows:

People are either disliking the show or liking it too little, and if they’re talking about it among their friends and co-workers, they’re being non-committal. They’re saying, “It was okay” or “It was interesting” and then they’re changing the subject. The hive is asleep, in other words. No buzz. (end of theory)

We decided to do damage control by embracing the reviews light-heartedly, publishing excerpts from one of them online in combination with production photos in the same way we’d publish excerpts from a positive review. Our landing page headlines cycle through “…bereft!” and “…passionless!” and my favorite, “…far-fetched and wobbly!” … a calculated gamble that even the reviewer endorsed, thanking us for the “early morning howls.”


Underlying all considerations of audience loyalty, marketing angles, the economy, the weather, the demographic we serve, the competition and the impact of any review on ticket sales is the show itself. Is it worthy of us? Does it clear the bar that we’ve been raising?

Answer: At least 51% “No.” If a show we produce doesn’t sell, it means we’re doing something wrong. We’ve misjudged our market or we’ve mishandled our marketing or we’ve mismanaged the production itself somehow. It’s extremely difficult to unpack the causes of success or failure in this business, but bold choices that don’t make the phone ring are bad choices. Business 101. At another time, in another place, our production might have caught fire. At this time, in this place, it didn’t. Our job now is to learn from our mistakes.