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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Penny for your thoughts » » Dinner theater audiences (1 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Jonathan
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In my experience dinner theatre crowds are the worst audiences I've seen. It's just been awful every one I've been to. Any ideas on why this is? You could say they are too busy eating but most of the time the entertainment starts well after everyone has finished eating. I'd like as many thoughts on this as possible.

Also, how can we use this information to help make the audiences better? Any tips? Because of personal reasons I've never been to a dinner theater where they serve alchohol, does that make a difference?

According to a great book on ADD I read, soon after you eat there is a "crash" that happens when the energy supplied by the food is used up and the insulin affects you. Simple carbohydrates are the worst. Maybe the desert and/or sugary drinks create that "crash" so soon after eating. Not sure what you could do about this except limit what is served to whole grain starches, low carb food, and non-sugary drinks like water. The people might not like that too much.

Also, the fact that you are sitting at a table might have something to do with it. We are used to conversation when we sit at a table and there's a feeling of isolation that creates a "wall" around you. People talking has always been a bad problem at the dinner theatres I've been to. I guess it subconcsiously seems like no one can hear you because they are at a different table. The best dinner theater I've been to in terms of an audience was one that had the show in a different place than the dinner. So, I think it would be very effective to have people move to an actual theater-style set up with rows of chairs and no tables after they eat. I think that makes a huge difference!

Obviously, the noise made by dishes being cleared and the food staff going in and out along with the noices from the kitchen are very distracting. Maybe keeping the staff from clearing the tables or doing any work till after the show? Maybe having them exit and enter the kitchen from another location so that the kitchen noises can't be heard? Of course most of the time the entertainment has no control over that. If the entertainment can have control over moving the people away from the tables to rows that could help.

One thing that really helps all those problems is to have the audio turned louder than normal. It may blast out, but with all the other noises it's necessary and because of that it won't seem too loud. Also, there seems to be a point in volume where you keep people from talking to others and also keeps people's minds from wondering. Almost like you penetrate their bubble and you are "closer" to them. Like if you are standing right next to a person they pay better attention and focus just on you than if you are a long ways away. The louder the audio is the "closer" I think the entertainment seems. I always said that there's a point in volume where the audio is louder than their thoughts. If it is right at the "audio level" of their thoughts then they can choose to pay attention or talk. If it is louder than they can't "hear themselves think" and struggle doing anything BUT paying attention. If it is softer then it is really hard to pay attention, it's a real struggle.

Using the same reasoning about wanting to seem "closer" to the audience, having them seated physically closer to the entertainment should help...especially if they move away from the tables to rows. From what I've seen, having the entertainment move out into the crowd has the opposite effect, however. Almost like they have left. For the tables that the person is close to they pay close attention but for everyone else they almost always start talking or doing something they wouldn't have done with him on stage. Kind of the same situation as when the teacher steps out of the classroom for a few minutes.

Any other ideas?
Paul
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???
I would have thought if people were going to a dinner theatre they were going because they wanted to eat AND be entertained after? If you just want dinner and to chat why go to a dinner theatre?

Is your experience just from one or two specific local venues?

To be honest, I do after dinner stuff but have never worked a dinner theatre (not that common in the UK). I didn't imagine it being too different? Most places I've worked have certainly had alchohol.

Regarding:
"According to a great book on ADD I read, soon after you eat there is a "crash" that happens when the energy supplied by the food is used up and the insulin affects you. Simple carbohydrates are the worst. Maybe the desert and/or sugary drinks create that "crash" so soon after eating. Not sure what you could do about this except limit what is served to whole grain starches, low carb food, and non-sugary drinks like water. The people might not like that too much. "

Again, everyone who performs after dinner cabaret entertains after people have eaten. When I had a restaurant residency years back doing close up my preferred time to entertain was AFTER the meal when they were on coffee etc. as they were totally relaxed and receptive.

Were you a diner at these venues or were you speaking from the point of view of someone who is perforning at them?

And as you say of various things you mention:
"Of course most of the time the entertainment has no control over that."

This is true. You are booked, you do the best with what you find. When you become a superstar, then you can make sure everything is exactly as you want it.

Paul.
Osiris
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Hmm... my entire course of work for most of the past decade has involved "Dinner & a Show"... more important, my shows require that the audience participate. My Mystery Shows being very much a form of interactive "experiential" theater. As Paul points out, why would anyone pay the big $$$s to attend such an event and then blow off the show part? It simply makes no sense!

I've found that when working a Dinner Theater situation, loosing the audience has far more to do with my not being able to capture their attention more than the medium (as in the kind of venue or facility) I happen to be in. Granted, there are those times when you're just dealing with a bunch of red-necked, opinionated, jerks (a.k.a. skeptics & braggerts) and their source of amusement is watching you (or any other performer) squirm. They are there to bust your chops and nothing other (sadly, it does happen).

When working any kind of venue you MUST recognize that what you think will work for a group is possibly wrong... You MUST consider the group and how to best capture their attention in the quickest amount of time. In most present day markets you have less than 20 seconds to make an impression upon the audience and prove to them your credentials -- your claims! I can almost lay money on the fact that you will not meet that end by walking out and doing a Card Trick. Rather, you need to establish a rapport with these people that makes them go "hmmmmm"

I've watched Kreskin take several different approaches in working a room. Oft times, when working a more difficult type of group he would make his entrance through the audience, offering mini-readings but more importantly, greeting folks and welcoming them to the show. He'd do some corny jokes to break the tension followed by some simple experiments that seemed to unfold in their "complexity" so as to involve more and more people. Each step in the process luring more and more interest from those gathered... he garnered that INVESTMENT OF BELIEF that's required in successful demonstrations of mentalism regardless your theme or style of work. And trust me on this... old George isn't the only one that knows how to exploit these little nuances and suck the consumer into his game and his playing field.

Many of my past articles and posts focus on the importance of being able to IMPROVISE and work at an Improvisational level (as in being totally clean, no props or gimmicks... just your wit and mental sense of resource). Being schooled and disciplined in such things lends to us the ability to shift gears in the middle of an otherwise difficult situation. We can step away from the script, step down into the crowd, and take a more hands-on approach in connecting to the gathered masses. This is something I've had to do as both, a traditional magician as well as a mentalist. It is an ability I take great pride in because it has saved my backside more times than I care to count.

The bottom line is, it is the performer the must learn how to adapt his/her self and material to the venue, not the other way around. It's a lesson in humility that can, if you let it, empower you! The end result is the stuff legends are made from.

Get your chin up and try again!
Jonathan
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I've never performed magic/mentalism for a dinner theater but I've been to many. I've never really been to professional dinner theaters like I think you are talking about (with the big bucks), but I'm more talking about college staff Christmas parties, banquets, etc. where it's more a social requirement to be there than wanting to go see a good show. I've mainly been involved in helping plan them so I've had more control than a booked entertainer. I guess professional dinner theaters are different? I would assume they are since people are going specifically for the entertainment.
Thoughtreader
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Working dinner theatres has never presented a problem for me and in fact I love working them. I have always found the audiences responsive, the settings good and aside from the need to perform at the front of the stage because the "set' from whatever else is playing there is usually there all is usually great. Because they usually have a good sound system and lighting, a simple run through with the crew is all that is normally needed with you not in any need to supply anything but yourself.

PSIncerely Yours,
Paul Alberstat
Canada's Leading Mentalist
http://www.mindguy.com
AB StageCraft
http://www.mindguy.com/store
entity
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There is a large difference in performing for a group that is there to eat and drink and socialize but unknowingly happens upon your show as part of the deal, and people who come to an event BECAUSE you are performing there, and part of the deal is that they receive food and drink.

-entity
Jonathan
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I would imagine so. Also, the sound has always been poor every one I've been to.
ThomasBerger
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"Also, the sound has always been poor every one I've been to."

Surely this is the primary issue?
I mean if you see a movie after dinner and you can't hear it properly,
wouldn't you blame the movie/sound and not the dinner?

You mention nothing about the standard of the acts either.
That is another variable.

Tom
RJE
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Hey Jonathon,

I found the exact opposite to be true. I was fortunate enough to be part of "A Little Night Magic" in Toronto Canada. The show ran for over a decade, 5 nights a week with 2 shows on Friday and Saturday evenings. It was billed as the longest running dinner theatre show in the country.

I was lucky enough to be part of the cast (3 acts and and MC) for just over 4 years (late 80's to early 90's). At that time, I was not doing mentalism, but we did have some amazing mentalists in the show over the years including Rudy Hunter and Jeff & Tessa Evason http://www.evason.com/index.html

The show got great reviews and people came from all over North America to see it. (I was given an Ambassador of Tourism Award from the Canadian Government while a part of the show). Other magicians in the cast over the years included David Ben, Jay Sankey, Glenn Ottaway, David Peck, Dick Joiner, Bishwamber Das, Ken Poynter, Mike Carbone and on and on.

The format was an MC, a manipulation act, a juggler and a feature and was advertised as a comedy magic cabaret. There was also a close-up performer during the dinner (prior to the stage act).

So again, I found dinner theatre to be a positive experience. Perhaps it might help to look at the venue you were in or the way the show was structured? You may find that dinner theatre might yet be a positive experience for you too.

Best of luck!

Rob
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