Talking to a patron after the last performance of BAT’s Playwrights Festival. She asked, “With you doing such great theater, why don’t more people come?”
She was telling the truth, BAT does not sell out every performance. Our record is 14 sell-outs out of 15 performances. But for most shows, some performances are less than sold out.
Still, I think the patron got the question backward. It is not, why don’t more people come and see a show, the real question is, why do so many people come to see BAT’s shows?
Those who do come to the show are treated to better live theater. And that is not just a marketing phrase. BAT produces some of the very best theater in the region, and I dare say the Country.
First, BAT looks for interesting scripts. As we say, you can stream/watch a $200 million dollar movie without having to put on pants, so what does BAT offer to get you to get off the sofa, into your car and then into the theater? It must be a compelling story, told well. (At least BAT has free onsite parking, taking away some of the drama of going to the theater in Seattle.)
BAT tends to look at scripts that are recent. BAT has brought Seattle, Washington, Northwest and West Coast premieres to its stage. But BAT does not shy away from older scripts if they have meaning for BAT’s audience. BAT is nothing if not catholic in its script selection. It is part of what makes season tickets so worthwhile.
Then BAT puts together the best creative team. From directors to designers, BAT gets the very best it can find. No doubt, they are amazing. Take a look some of BAT’s photos – HERE. You cannot hear some of the wonderful sounds and music that goes into the shows, but they are as good as these sets and costumes look. BAT’s creative team works magic.
Once the creative team is in place, there is casting. BAT uses an open call. That is any actor can audition at BAT. And many do. BAT has been blessed with some amazing talent. Although some actors come back, BAT is always looking for the best person for the role and having been on stage before does not guarantee you a role, unless you are the best for that particular role. (Having said that, BAT is always happy to work with actors time and time again.)
Then there are all of the rehearsals. Typically six weeks, five, sometimes six, times a week. There are the designer meetings. Hours planning, building, painting, searching for just the right piece. Many shows at BAT have over 100 people working on them. It takes my breath away.
So, why do people come to see shows at BAT? Because it is some of the best theater you can see anywhere. Over BAT’s 37 seasons, that may not have always been true. I was not there, so I cannot say. But I will stack BAT’s work up against any theater you can name, and be confident you’ll find BAT produces better live theater time and time again.