Studies show that audiences want more from their theaters than simply what they see on the stage, however well-done.
They want engagement, they want a social dynamic, they want to feel connected to the art as well as each other. They want to feel invested in the theater.
One of the tried-and-true ways that theaters have traditionally done this (more tired-and-true in so many cases) is the post-show discussion.
But perhaps theaters can take a cue from their counterparts in the dance and symphony worlds by having pre-show discussions.
At the end of show -- especially a long one -- audeinces generally want to exeunt al.
But getting an audience to understand the world of the play before they see might be another matter and make for a richer experience once the show begins. And a happier exit once it's over.
This, I think, would be most effective in historic or classic works. Imagine attending a discussion about William Shaklespeare's
Suddenly the context of the play's times, the copm;lexiyties of nthe narrative and even the nuances the production so wants to acjheve might actually be appreciated rather than resting on the thin hope that theater-goers are reading those ambitiously designed program notes.
Of course you wouldn't want to give anything away in the play and original shows may be best just to experience without any pre-conceived notions. But maybe not.
For some works, pre-show connection might just be one way to further bond with an audience.