Exciting DAVID News Over the Transom

Small, significant steps in the past few hours.  Phoning in for the DAVID box office night end from the outdoor lobby of the historic Pasadena Playhouse, I hear of an unexpected $900 spike in ticket sales on Saturday last minute purchases; walk-ups, Goldstar, Ticketplace, Rush Tix; who knows?  Can’t tell on the phone. But we gathered up an extra 20+ patrons last night and it made all the difference in the world!  Our stage manager, the diligent Maribeth Chaprnka, reports: “Responsive. Lots of laughs, particularly during the foreskin scene. Cheers during curtain call, and one patron stood.”

And now this from the incredibly devoted, intrepid playgoing group, FOOTLIGHTS; one member shares:

Subject: [footlightsdc] MUST SEE:David in Shadow & Light @ Theater J

I was absolutely blown away by Theater J’s premier Of David in Shadow and Light. From the first mesmerizing moment…with fabulous arresting use of light, shadows, brilliant choreography and staging… A delight to behold. Inventive. To the fabulous vocal and acting talent of the cast to the gorgeous costumes and use of technique, to the thrilling musical expertise. This is a MUST SEE! Tell your friends to come from out of town. It is THAT SPECIAL a production. This is the first show that I have seen in years that I really wanted to see again. Absolutely SUPERB! You can tell this was a labor of love, and that it evolved over the last 4 years. It was an awesome experience. Hats off to the cast, crew, directors. It just opened a week ago. The run has been extended through June 22.
This weekend they have a $10 off discount. RUSH to see this play and tell your friends. Brilliantly done. Be delighted.
Thanks, Theater J. And you can take your kids to see it! – Barbara Halpern

So the importance of people telling people that there is simply too much talent, too much story, too much motion and spectacle and song to allow this production to whither on the vine. And so Thursday night’s wonderful performance with its really moving talk-back with the cast immediately after (such a dedicated, BELIEVING bunch of actors who are in love with this score and are devoted to giving their all every night), and now this strong performance with the extra 20 patrons moves us slowly-slowly in the right positive direction. Will we make it to the finish line? What is the finish line?
We’re scheduled to run 4 more weeks after today’s two performances (yes, as Barbara suggests, Memorial Day Weekend discounts are in place — perhaps they pushed those twenty last minute folks up the steps and into the theater?). Is there audience enough to keep the show open? We have had, at the moment, a little more than 2400 ticket holders spread over 7 weeks. That’s an average of 70 people in the house a night, if we don’t sell another ticket. But the houses toward the end of the run are lighter than they were the first week; opening; the Pay What You Can; etc… We’re gonna try hard to make it work; to make every scheduled show a winner, including the two 12 pm weekday matinees on June 4 and 11 (one is very full with groups; the other, less so). It will be that kind of iffy-struggle for a while, until, as our good friends and lay-leaders are predicting, the word-of-mouth really takes hold in another 10 or so days. It’s usually two weeks after reviews that the clear consensus on word-of-mouth outstrips the impact of press and asserts its own meter on the box office. We’re moving from the shell-shocked state to the quietly hoping that good work will beget good folks with enterprising impulses and the good sense to follow their good taste. And not be like the ticket-holder who sent us back her two DAVID tickets in the mail accompanied by the neatly clipped out review of the show from Peter Marks and on the back of the envelope scrawled, “Please give these to anyone who would like to see ‘a messy stylistic mishmash.'” Which was perhaps the saddest and nastiest response imaginable; as the impact of a capricious reviewer [and yes, there’s been more than just that one] succeeds in making up the mind of an annoyed ticket holder before she’s bothered to come make her own mind up, putting her trust in the opinion of the critic more than in the promise of the theater company or the demonstrated commitments and talents of the artists. Who’s telling the truth? Here’s a simple way of reframing that question:  As Stephen Sondheim is given to saying when confronted with a bad reviewer:  “That person didn’t like it.  Others have.”  It’s really as simple as that, isn’t it?)

But yes, there’s hostility we’re fighting.  A dear friend of the theater writes that “I don’t share your enthusiasm; one of the worse performances I have ever seen at J [sic].  It belongs in Sunday School programs.”  So that’s why we cherish the positive feedback — not that we can’t learn from criticism — and soon we can share those gleanings; what we’re learning from both the rash “anti-Sunday School” comments as well as our own sharing of what we were working to fix and to solve that we never fully managed to finish — and that’s why we welcome the positive up-tick in ticket sales and keep our ears close to the ground.

There’s no letting go on this yet. Too much talent. Too much still at stake. Too many decisions still to be made. And a fiscal year closing at next month’s end. We’re chugging away, recruiting new friends and believers on this production one day at a time.


8 thoughts on “Exciting DAVID News Over the Transom

  1. I agree with Barbara that the lighting and cast were terrfic, but please, don’t tell parents that they can bring their young children or any child under 13 to see this show. Were you sleeping through through the bloody bag of foreskins, the gay love song, the profane rants of Goliath- Barbara? This is a very powerful and visually stunning production for adults and mature young adults. Leave the children at home.

    What do you think Ari?

  2. Perfect for 12 and up! 7th graders know about foreskin, men kissing men, and Phillistines hurling invectives. Younger than 12? Who can say? It depends on the level of discourse in the home. But my 8th graders and her friends are quite comfortable with the show and it hews quite closely to the books of Samuel. Except for the contemporary markers. I’d think this musical is as useful to the story of DAVID as the Andrew Lloyd Webber is to the story of JOSEPH. And who knows? This score might follow that show’s developmental trajectory. Which is to say, it was worked on and worked on and grew from a contanta, to a full blown show. With great congratulations to all along the way.


  3. To clarify, I don’t think the play is appropriate for young kids… 13 and up is probably OK. I had not read the reviews. It was really a casual reference on my part, applauding the theatrics, puppetry, costumes, and much to delight an audience. I just thought that most of the off-color stuff was handled subtly … and presumed that it could be interpreted on different levels, based on the viewer’s frame of reference and knowledge. I am not a parent, but my guess is that some of the references will go over young people’s heads, or they may ask questions. You are bringing adult values and biases to your interpretation.
    What is portrayed here, in a play, which does not convey real life in today’s world… is much less gore and blood than they see in a typical sci fi or action flick or TV show… or on the streets of DC. My review was focusing on the good, the brilliance of this theater experience … which far outweighed these controversial points.
    I’d rather this type of show than mindless, boring dialogue and lackluster performance. for those who return tix, or don’t go based on a review, aren’t you the least bit curious about whether you agree with the review, or if you would be depriving yourself of a great theater experience. i don’t read [Peter] Marks reviews. When I have, I found his ‘take’ to be the exact opposite of what I thought. Or using his power to make or break a show. For the most part it seems that his views do not represent most of the theater goers. So the question is. Are you going to let him “win” and wield power, and kabosh a play that deserves to be seen and enjoyed, for all it does right, clever, refreshing? Theater J has come a long way!

  4. Thanks Barbara for your followup response and to Ari for your comments. I have young kids (7 and 9) and was trying to decide if I should bring them to see David. I implore Theater J and the other theaters in town to consider us when you market your shows, and let parents know if your show is appropriate for young children. I am also tired of people staying away from shows because critics hate it, I have seen so many shows that I love that critics have hated.

  5. Fortunately, despitePeter Marks’ cruel, dismissive review of David, we went to see the play and were engrossed all the way through the performance.

    The acting, dancing, singing were outstanding, and the emotional pull of David’s conflicts were absorbing.

    Peter Marks was way off the mark. I have lost all respect for his judgment.

  6. I just want to cry when I hear that Theater J has any difficulty filling the house at every performance of “David in Shadow and Light.” It’s a loss for everyone who isn’t in the audience. This is the most powerful show I’ve seen in years. The only reason I didn’t stand at the closing curtain was that I was too emotionally devastated to get to my feet.

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