Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Why does my ticket state "8pm"?

Minneapolis, Minnesota

One of life's enduring mysteries: Why do most professional and student dance performances in the Twin Cities begin after the appointed hour announced in marketing materials and printed on tickets?

The practice of late starts disses patrons who place a priority on arriving early, meaning on time. Time is money, and keeping an audience of 200 waiting for five minutes past the stated curtain rise wastes 16 hours.

Many dancers and ensembles have built the habit of "holding for 5" into their modus operandi as a preferred standard. Even at that, some groups still cannot get their shows on the stage for five or 10 minutes more.

Presumably, these delays are rationalized as a courtesy to those who are running late for any reason or no reason. However, the standard should be "If you are late, you are late."

Which leads to another peeve endemic to dance performances. What's with all the continuous and mindless seating of late-comers?

If late to the orchestra, opera, and most theater, the protocol is to wait for "an appropriate break" in the action. This can mean cooling one's heels in the lobby for 30 minutes. Been there and done that.

I recently attended a dance performance that already had started 15 minutes past the posting. Two people arrived even later and insisted on using their assigned seats in the front row. Never mind that the row was screwed up and only one seat was available. Exit one patron and the usher to a vestibule to conduct an animated and audible discussion before the usher carried in and placed a chair at one end of the front row. This incident was neither exceptional nor specific to one venue.

Just as a sold-out performance teaches audience members to buy ahead the next time, the establishment and enforcement of start times and late seating policies will prompt more people to plan ahead. 

Routine delays do not reflect a first-rate organization at work. When I purchase a ticket for your performance, we have an agreement that leaves no room to argue about the timing of our respective roles in the transaction.

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