Guest Blogger Jordana WilliamsPosted October 21st, 2005 by Sean Williams
i’m really proud of HAIL SATAN. the actors are doing really terrific work and a lot of exciting things are happening on stage. the audiences we’ve had so far have been really engaged and have stayed with the piece as the tone shifted from funny to creepy to creepyfun to sweet to fucked up to seriously fucked up to (from certain perspectives) hilarious. and they’ve talked about it with a real interest afterwards. we just can’t get more than a handful of people to come see it.
part of it’s just math. if we had more people involved in the project, those people would bring more friends. also, because this came so quickly on the heels of FLEET WEEK, i didn’t feel like i had enough time to advertise for and hold auditions, so i basically just invited actors to participate–meaning that the people involved are already “in the family” to some extent. this may have been a serious mistake on my part. but i also have a hard time regretting it when i see what good work everyone’s doing. another part is that none of the three of us is solely producing, so any publicity efforts are potentially weakened by the fact that we are exhausted by our artistic responsibilities, which we have a hard time not putting first. truth be told, i’m useless at publicity even at my best and brightest, so there’s that.
we’ve created what i think is a great show, but we have failed (thus far) to create an Alluring Event. you can tell people your show is great, but those people have seen a lot of stinky shows people assured them were great and so they are understandably skeptical. i like to think that we have a pretty good track record–such that people who know our work would be intrigued by whatever we’re doing next–but of course i think that. pretty much everyone thinks that about themselves, no matter how wrong they are, which is why audiences are inclined toward disbelief. that’s where the Alluring Event comes in.
FLEET WEEK had a lot of things going for it–the (somewhat compromised but seemingly indestructable) cache of the fringe festival, a large cast and production team, a catchy title (particularly intriguing to one of theater’s most reliable target audiences), the involvement of some well-established artists and a few early press mentions (which i attribute partially to luck and partially to some of the aforementioned assets). all of this in concert with a focused pr push from our whole team helped us sell out opening night well in advance–and that’s when people really started to buy tickets. i think the young people refer to this as “buzz.”
ayn rand was always going on about social metaphysics–the tendency of people to equate popularity with merit. the flaw in that thinking stems from the fact that every person who supports this hypothetical person or thing is probably doing so for subjective, complicated, personal reasons and is probably not lending his/her support free of external influence. so to add up all of these people and try to draw up some kind of objective assessment of the quality of the thing in question is neither scientific nor reliable. it’s like an actor with the “oscar winner” stamp of approval. you might have hated or felt lukewarm about the performance for which they won the oscar, but you can’t help feeling like they are now officially good or venerable or whatever because they won the award.
sometimes it felt like FLEET WEEK was just successful enough to inspire backlash–much of which came before anyone actually saw the show. [that’s mostly me being an ungrateful douche.] in any case, it was successful enough to get seats filled. and when that happened, it was largely the full houses and “buzz” that people were responding to (with support or resentment) rather than the piece itself. so far, the converse doesn’t seem to have happened with HAIL SATAN. as i said like twelve paragraphs ago, our audiences seem to really dig the show even though it isn’t popular. i really hope the crowds pick up, but, if they don’t, i hope that doesn’t stop audiences from seeing the merits of the piece or the actors from believing in themselves.
ideally, a theater company should have (at minimum) a dual focus. there should be one branch working on making the art as good as it can be and another branch working to create the Alluring Event. those branches can be all the same people, but those people won’t get much sleep.
HAIL SATAN–tonight, tomorrow and next wednesday-saturday at manhattan theatresource, macdougal street between 8th street and waverly. please come. please tell your friends.