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Some days have themes. I don't necessarily post something in each of these topic areas every week.

Sunday: Church-related or spiritual things.
Monday: Running.
Tuesday: Books.
Wednesday: Transportation.
Friday: Green living.

28 September 2016

Under-Muzzled

If you're not as into the world of live theatre as I am, you may not know about the kerfuffle around Cameron Mackintosh's latest fiat to his cast members in the UK: they're no longer allowed to share the performances when they are planning to be out or, or, in the case of understudies, when they'll be on in place of the principal actor.

Loved, loved, loved Aleks Pevec in
Something Rotten (not a Cam Mac
show). I'd definitely go see him again.
Guess what? He's an understudy.
The management company's concern seems to be that show news shouldn't be coming from the actors, but instead from the company themselves. Fair enough. Why aren't there calendars on the shows' websites with announcements about when principals will be out and understudies will be on? (I'm talking about planned days off, obviously, not surprise illnesses and whatnot.)

Then there's this line in the article linked above: "He conceded that the rapid expansion of social media had 'caught everybody by surprise'." What?? No. That excuse may have worked five-ish years ago, but you've had plenty of time to adjust to this reality. What makes that statement all the more frustrating (and hard to believe!) is that at least two of the affected shows in London-- Les Misérables and Phantom of the Opera--are great examples of how a popular show should run its social media. I've gotten ideas from them fairly often in my work as a social media manager.

I'm not completely ignorant of the realities of having an understudy on vs. the principal performer--when I searched tickets for Les Misérables on Broadway last summer, it was obvious there were more unsold seats for Tuesday nights, when John Owen-Jones was out on vocal rest, than on other nights. However, this policy, as many have pointed out, just makes it sound like the company is trying to pull a fast one. Plus, it seems like they have no respect either for their performers or the audience. Another excellent article on The Stage points out that very thing:
Social media is readily conscripted by managements and marketers to promote their shows, but it seems counter-intuitive to try to control their most powerful agents – the actors themselves – in this way. It suggests the actors are not to be trusted with their own information, and that somehow an understudy notice would harm the show.
Some of my fave actors in Les Mis.
(Sorry about the photo quality;
believe me, I'm still cranky about that.)
All amazing, all understudies, all folks
I would buy a ticket to see in a heartbeat.
Clockwise: Jason Forbach, Joe
Spieldenner, Beth Kirkpatrick.
And what I really don't get is how the presence of this "problem" didn't alert the producers that this is instead an opportunity. Why do so many understudies tweet out the dates they'll be on? Because fans ask them to. (That's how this story broke--someone asked one of the ensemble in Les Mis when he'd be on next in the role he understudies.) These often less well-known but certainly no less hardworking actors have earned their social following, they have fans of their own no matter what show they're in, and when they can announce ahead of time they'll be on, fans will come to see them. No last-minute surprises for the audience, great opportunity for the actors and their fans, and the production company doesn't end up looking like colossal jerks. Win-win-win.

Which brings me back round to my earlier question--if you appreciate your audience, and you respect and trust your actors, but you simply must be the one to share show news: why not set up a system announcing when the principals are planning to be off and understudies will be on? Put it out with enough time that fans can plan when to attend, understudies can share the news with their fans, and principals can shout out their understudies before taking off (which they presently can't do, according to the news releases, despite what the linked tweet says). This is such an easy fix that wouldn't have the attendant bad press Cameron Mackintosh is currently getting.

The theatre world loves you, Cam Mac. Show us some love back, would you?

2 comments:

Crystal Collier said...

Theater and politics. Gag. Really, the managers shouldn't have any issue with the actors furthering their publicity at all. The more talk out there, the better.

Su Wilcox said...

I agree. I'm still flabbergasted that their official spokesman is acting like social media just happened last week. Seriously, y'all, get your act together.

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