On several occasions, I’ve overheard Stella say this to someone who’s asked her about me being away on a trip:
When mom is away, my dad gets bored and watches Lord of the Rings or Star Wars movies at night. I don’t like it! The music is so loud that I can hear it in my bedroom — and it can be really scary and eerie!
Not only do I find it sweet that she thinks he’s bored without me (even though I don’t actually believe that for a minute!), but I love imagining him indulging in his favourite sci-fi films. So when I heard that Canada’s NAC Orchestra was going to accompany the film the Lord of the Rings, I knew I had to get us tickets!
Luck had an even better plan and the NAC hosted a “Blogger Night” for us last night. So what’s a “Blogger Night,” you ask? A small group of bloggers are invited by the NAC to come to the opening night with a date, as well as receive a few other thoughtful perks, such as a welcome greeting to the show by Gerald Morris, a communications officer with the NAC. I couldn’t hear anything he was saying over the noise of the crowd, since for some reason we were gathered at the edge of the stairwell, so I decided to snap some photos of him. He’s an interesting-looking guy, and later, Hubby and I bumped into him at intermission, and he’s an interesting guy to talk to as well.
In addition to pretending I could actually hear a word Gerald was saying and taking photos of him, I also took a look around the lobby … Wow! It was a-buzzing! Lord of the Rings fans were here in droves — and wearing costumes! I thought that was so awesome! You know you’ve created a cool experience when people come in costume!
I asked two young women if I could take my photo with them. They are in full dress and you’ll note that the blonde has elfin ears poking out of her hair.
By the end of the night, I wanted some elfin ears for myself! Sure, I probably couldn’t pull them off as well as Liv Tyler, who plays Arwen, an Elf maiden, but whatever.
Despite Hubby’s affection for Tolkein’s work, I had never read the books or seen the films. I generally fall asleep during the inevitable sci-fi plot line of: Good guys have to fight the Bad guys –> a token female gets thrown in –> Good guys win.
But I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this experience. It felt extremely luxurious to watch a film on a 60-foot screen with a full orchestra and choir. The stage, as Natasha Gauthier of The Ottawa Citizen, describes:
The Southam Hall stage was jam-packed with an army of musicians: a massive adult chorus; a children’s chorus; both a boy and a female soprano soloist; and the NACO, impressively augmented not just with extra string, brass, woodwind and percussion players, but also guitar, mandolin, accordion, hammered dulcimer, prepared piano, Japanese drums and a host of other exotic and unusual instruments.
I snapped a quick photo of the scene while patrons were still coming in to take their seats:
All in all, I have to say how impressed I was that the NAC Orchestra has brought something so appealing to young people to their stage. In fact, over all the years that Hubby and I have been attending NAC events, this is the youngest crowd we’ve ever seen (I’ve commented on the age of the crowds before)!
But this young crowd is different, with different preferences. The NAC has tapped into some of them by encouraging costumes, welcoming people to bring their smartphones for photo-ops in the lobby with a Lord of the Rings set, and sharing its own photos of fans on its facebook page. Now the question is: how to turn these young people into return customers?
Hubby and I agreed that these tactics listed above are indeed the way forward. In addition, we also chatted about the following in the car:
- The women’s washrooms! Seriously, it’s utterly embarrassing how long the line is for these inadequate facilities. I know it will cost big money to renovate the washrooms, but this situation is costing the NAC money! Intermission is a prime time to earn some much-needed cash for an arts center via drink sales but we rarely use the bar because I have to spend the entire intermission waiting in a line-up for the ladies room and Hubby can’t be bothered to wait in line for the bar if he’s not going to be able to share a drink with a companion. Also, I never end up being able to buy a show souvenir because — yes, you guessed it — I spend the entire intermission in a line-up! If couples were able to spend some time chatting and sharing a drink during intermission, the experience overall would be more enjoyable and feel more like a “date night.”
- I noticed a number of people had snuck cans of pop and bags of chips into the theatre. I was not impressed! But Hubby commented that maybe that’s what the NAC needs to do if it wants to encourage the younger generation to attend. And then I remembered all the shows I’d seen in NYC’s Broadway — they allow food and drink into the theatre. So maybe Hubby was on to something. Here is a photo of a plastic, no-spill cup from the last Broadway show I saw in New York. My red wine was poured into it and I could bring it back to my seat.
- Sell different food at intermission. The pastries and current selection are, well, old-fashioned.
- Create unique keepsakes to purchase. I would imagine that souvenirs are a good money-maker for the arts, but last night’s offering looked like the same stuff I could buy at Chapters. I personally love to collect a mug from each Broadway show I see. Each mug tends to have an interesting quote from a character on it. I know from working in marketing myself that these mugs can be produced, even in very low quantities, for less than $5 and yet I still buy them for $12 to $15 from each show.
- Reduce the cost of parking? I’m not sure if this is do-able, but even if the NAC could offer a student rate for parking, that might help. Or perhaps a parking voucher for anyone who spends more than $50 on souvenirs?
Anyhow, I’ve gone way off track here … it’s just that I truly love the arts and want my hometown to have a very successful and lively arts scene!
So, back to the show: It was a really unique experience and I’d recommend it. I checked the online ticket site and there are still some seats left for tonight (Friday, July 6th) and tomorrow (Saturday, July 7th). If you’re a student between the ages of 13 and 29, be sure to take advantage of the NAC’s amazing Live Rush program, which lets a student buy two last-minute tickets to a show for only $12!
To give you an idea of what the experience is like, here is a clip of a similar performance by Radio City Music Hall in 2009:
P.S. In re-reading this, I see that I am rambly and hardly even talk about the performance itself. Gah! You’ll forgive a girl for having just-arrived-back-from-cottage-brain, right?
Edited on July 9th to add: To make up for not writing about the actual performance enough, here are reviews from other “Blogger Night” guests to give you a feel for the performance. Apparently, attendance was fantastic, so I’m hopeful that the NAC will bring it back again next year with the second film in the trilogy! Here is Sterling Lynch over at Ottawa Sneezers and Wayne C from The Many Faces of Wayne. Also, a BIG thank you to the reader who Stumbled this post — it doubled my blog’s traffic today!