Spreading the Magic

I’ve always thought it strange that a play should stop at the edge of the stage, and thinking back to my favourite customer productions and murder mysteries that I’ve taken part in, they’ve all gone beyond the boundary of the proscenium arch in one way or another.

Whatever the show format (drama play, comedy, musical, revue), there are always ways to extend the production out from the stage into the rest of the auditorium and ultimately enrich the audience’s experience.

1. Introductory and Interval Music

This is a wonderful chance to get your audience in the right mood for the tone of your production.

If you’ll be performing musical numbers, treat them to snippets of those songs.

If your play has a particular setting – circus, railway, zoo – then play music that is linked to that setting.

Music of the period of your murder mystery can prepare your audience for a play set in the 1960s or 1920s, for instance.

Play music of the correct mood. In our play On Her Way Out, a comical murder mystery set at an outward-bound centre, our characters run on and begin exercising to the rousing tones of ‘Something for the Weekend’ by Divine Comedy.

2. The Auditorium

Can you extend your stage set into the auditorium and visually pull your audience into the setting of the play?

A production about a street party could see bunting extend from the stage into the auditorium.

The decorations from a wedding – flowers, balloons, etc – could be used on the end of audience seating rows.

Other themes – Hallowe’en, railway, Christmas – can be used to decorate the auditorium too.

3. Front of House Staff

Why should the actors have all the fun?

Your front of house staff – bar, food servers, compere, ticket takers – can add an extra element to the magic by dressing up to suit your production.

They could be wedding guests at a production set at a wedding.

At a Hallowe’en production, a staff of witches, ghouls and werewolves would be fitting.

Let them act out their roles too. It all adds to the fun.

4. Food, Bar and Merchandise

In our play A Show To Die For, one of the characters alludes to the confectionery, Sherbet Dip, so at the first production, we had a box of Sherbet Dips for sale on our bar.

At another production, we made up cocktails with the characters’ names.

Even your raffle, if you hold one, can include items that link into your production.

Have fun matching the food, drinks and merchandise to your show.

5. Interval Entertainment

Add to the night’s entertainment with some activities during the interval.

In Bad Fortune, the murder victim is a fortune teller. Have a comedy fortune teller (who gives equally comic fortunes) set up in the auditorium.

If you’re performing a period play (1960s, 1980s), have a trivia quiz for that era.

For a wedding themed murder mystery, have a wedding disco or a wedding singer.

Making your audience a part of your production will not only enliven the evening but also ensure that they come back for more.