The Theater-goer’s Experience: Q & A

As a result of a recent theater experience, I decided to interview three people, Monifa Kincaid, Leandra Baynes, and Carine Darnell to get their ideas on their theater experiences.   As a result of the interviews, I hope that I can generate at least five regular theater-goers with varied interest to form a group that attends the theater about four times annually. The following questions and responses follow:

From left to right: Natasha Williams, Monifa Kincaid and, Ebony williams at BAM during intermission of Cedar Lake Contemporary Dance performance.

Question: How often do you go to the theater?

Monifa: I go a minimum of fifteen times a year.

Carine: I go about three to four times a year. I’m interested in attending more often with friends.

Leandra: I see a theatrical performance every couple of months as a treat.

Question: What do you look for in a play? Do you look at the set, the narrative, sound design, costumes, etc?

Monifa: “I look for whether the play is a fresh idea and whether the set is minimalist, whether the creative team is able to do much with little.  I also want to be entertained, but it’s the production team’s job to express its idea about what they have inside.  When people say they did not like a particular play, it may be because they did not understand it.  I ask myself the following questions: Is this the first time that I’m seeing this artist? Is this an experiment stepping away from what is normally done? Is it under rehearsed? Is the flow of the content together? The costumes are not a major factor for me, but there must be a relationship of the costumes to the ideas expressed in the performance.”

Carine Darnell, Theater-goer
Carine Darnell, theater-goer

Carine: “I like musicals.  I like the singing and the dancing, but if I go to a play, I go for the story and for the acting. I love to hear live music and to see how well the show incorporates music. “I look at the whole production. Specifically, “I like to be entertained and to escape my reality.” I pay attention to the costumes to see how well they match the story.

Leandra:” I go to the theater to have a sense of culture, to set myself apart from some of my peers. I like a good story set in motion.”

Question: Do you pay attention to reviews?

Monifa: “I do not want to know everything about the show ahead of time.  I’ll make up my mind when I see the show instead of prejudging.  I like to stay open to the ideas of the show.  A theater-goer should experience something different often.  You should not see the same thing all the time.  Are reviewers there to support the arts or are they there to tear down and divide? I do not like over critiquing, nitpicking, and over evaluating.”

Carine: “I do not read reviews. I do not search them out. I like to be familiar with the story, but I don’t read what critics say.  It may help, but it is not necessary.”

Leandra: “I read about the theater itself because I want to know the condition of the building.  Can I sneak in snacks? Will the ushers be available ? Is the sound good and things of that nature? I bypass actual play and movie reviews because everyone’s taste is different. I read about the stories on which the plays are based before seeing them and research the plays as best I can.  I try to determine the shows I’d like to see by what they are about and sometimes by who’s in them.”

Question: Is the story the most essential part of the performance?

Monifa: “The narrative does not matter to me.  It can be loosely knitted. I look at body movement to interpret the story. I look at the set and I look at the story through a variety of lens. The music ties the story together.  If the genre of the performance is dance, there has to be an overall theme.  It does not have to have a narrative.  Sometimes, there is nothing for you to get, just experience.”

Carine: I like a good story, but it is the entire performance that I evaluate. I look at the set to reflect on the story. ” I go for the overall experience.  If the set doesn’t detract from the experience, then it is okay.”

Leandra: “The story is the most important with sound coming in at a very close second.  The story is what first gets my attention.  The music can move the imagination.  The slightest pitch at the right time can complete a scene.”

Question: Do the other creative elements of the play matter?

Monifa: Sometimes creative teams do not have the money.  If that is the case, then the play should be scaled back to fit within the budget.  “Don’t let the lightning, the blocking, the costume design take over if you don’t have that budget.”

Carine: I look at the entire production.

Leandra Baynes, theater-goer

Leandra: Only the sound design is what I focus on.  It helps me understand the show.

Question: Do you make a decision to see a show based on who is starring in it?

Monifa:  “I like to see performance of groups or artists that I know nothing about.”  I’ll go because “someone recommended it or because it seems interesting.  I’ll show up with no preconceived notion. I feel like I’m learning and discovering something new every time I step into a theater.”

Carine: Sometimes I go to see productions of actors with whom I am familiar.  For example, I saw Jesse Tyler Ferguson in a play once.

Leandra: “I tend to lean toward my favorites,” when deciding on the play in which I’m interested.  The reputation of someone may make me see the play and I give him or her the benefit.  For example, I liked NeNe Leakes in Cinderella.

Question: How do you feel about technology being used to enhance a performance?

Monifa: I prefer it not to be included.  They use it as the highlight instead of using it to accent the show.  “I don’t like computer generated images.  I don’t need the bells and whistles.”

Carine: “I don’t go expecting technology.”  It makes it more memorable.  I don’t miss it if it’s not there.  It is an added bonus.

Leandra: It is not important to me and sometimes it is distracting.

Question: After you have seen the show, do you discuss it afterward or read about it?

Monifa: “I usually discuss the work with someone and definitely recommend the performance and help to promote it through social media.”

Carine: I don’t normally discuss the show afterward. If I know someone who has seen the show, I may talk about it with him or her.

Leandra:” I tend to dwell on a very good play or movie for a few days after I’ve seen it.  I work it into conversations.  I research unknown actors.  I look up locations and references made during the performances.  If I feel very strongly about it, I recommend it to others via social media, but I try not to give bad reviews with as much emphasis.”


Deirdre M. DeLoatch
Deirdre M. DeLoatch, blogger

We all have varied interests in the performing arts, but we all have one thing in common. We enjoy a great performance. Let’s start a club that meets purely to see a few shows a year.  Let’s have good lunch and great discussion about the show (that is if we attend a matinée performance). If you know someone who is interested, have him or her leave a comment on my blog or on my upcoming Facebook page for my blog- All the World’s a Set or Let’s start a conversation.

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