An interesting piece about Portland Center Stage’s world premiere production of Somewhere in Time landed on the front page of today's New York Times. The show has always had its sights set on Broadway, but now the Broadway producer behind the play, Ken Davenport, is experimenting with something new on Portland audiences: dial testing. That is, the process where audience members adjust dials based on how much they like what’s going on in real time. Like that song? Crank it up. Hate that time travel sequence (as this reviewer did)? Crank it down.
Perhaps most famous for its presence in presidential debates, dial testing is also commonly used for developing commercials and television programs. Davenport is the first to use it on a play (using dials made by Beaverton compay Dialsmith), which has some folks cheering, but others concerned about how pandering to the audience might affect the quality of vision. Davenport says he’s using it as a guide, not a veto.
As for the show’s audience, sounds like their dials are mixed. (My review was quite critical, if in part because I held the ambitious production to a very high standard. Perhaps my future reviews will take the shape of a line showing the peaks and valleys of what I liked and didn’t, with annotated notes. Kidding. Maybe.)
Here’s the Times's article. What do you think about how it might affect the creative process?
In other big PCS/Broadway news, the musical A Night with Janis Joplin, which premiered at PCS two summers ago, will begin previews on Broadway Sept. 20 at the Lyceum Theatre, beating Somewhere in Time to be the first play that debuted at PCS before finding it's way to the Big Apple's bright lights (hitting a number of regional theaters en route). Big props to PCS!