There are probably laws dictating that theatre companies need to make public safety announcements at the start of performances. But I wish companies wouldn’t do it. There’s no greater Joy Kill.
You walk into the theatre, excited about what’s about to happen. You buy a drink, take your seat, peruse your program and get ready to experience something unusual. A little thrill rushes through you at the prospect of being transported to a different world for a couple of hours. The auditorium hums with the buzz of expectation and goodwill. You engage the stranger sitting next to you in a conversation about the company’s work or another production of the play you saw in Pennsylvania in the summer of ’92. Everyone’s in it together. The clock strikes eight and you’re just about ready for the houselights to go down. But instead they go…up! And some awkward, stage-struck volunteer in a company T-shirt suddenly materializes before your eyes with a rambling monologue about how grateful the organization is to welcome you to its humble theatrical offering and how donations would be gratefully appreciated no matter how large or small, followed by the inevitable please-notice-your-nearest-emergency-exit and please-switch-off-your-cellphone reminders.
By the time the volunteer has finished talking, the spell has been completely — and sometimes irreparably — broken. What a shame.
If there were some way to prevent these speeches from happening, the theatre-going experience would be improved. You rarely hear people at a concert or public lecture telling the audience to silence its cellphones etc. Put the information on a board at the theatre doors if you have to; write a message on the front cover of the program; have the person who takes tickets or hands out programs voice a gentle reminder as he or she escorts audience members to their seats.
But please, please, please don’t ruin those crucial first moments with an annoying — and to my mind, unnecessary — speech.