I really don’t know what to do with the data life hands me sometimes. A coupla weeks ago I finished the run of a play. I was acting as Marley, and half a dozen minor roles, in a one-hour adaptation of A Christmas Carol at the Mendocino Theatre Company. It was a smashing success. Why?
I’ve done many shows at MTC. I’ve acted, I’ve stage managed, I’ve directed, etcetera, so forth, and so on. The typical MTC production goes something like this: A bunch of people toil away for months (for little or no pay), trying to squeeze every subtle, meaningful nuance out of an excellent script. The show opens. About twenty or so people a night show up. They yawn. They clap politely at the end, then they promptly forget about the whole thing.
This production started as a staged reading. We’ve always known that Christmas shows are great from a marketing standpoint, but they’re tough to pull off, as everybody is already tooo busy during the holiday season. But people should be able to make time to fling together a staged reading.
The staged reading thing turned into a cartoon snowball rolling down a mountain. We got a pianist. We got cute kids to sing songs to open the show. We choreographed a little dance number. We got nice costumes. We got an elegant lighting design. We learned our lines.
Once the show opened, we has a little show that was… I don’t know… elegant? meaningful?
Whatever it was, it did well at the box office, pretty much selling out nearly all the shows. And people seemed genuinely moved by it, too. But what were the keys to its success? The familiar story? Dickensian magic? The lean, condensed adaptation? The acting?
What lessons is MTC supposed to draw from the show? Stick to familiar material? Short shows? Simple, emotional plays? Keep the staging very simple? Make sure there are always some cute kids in every show?
But, you can see the show for yourself and derive the formula for theatrical glory. The show’s on Youtube.