Here’s what we know…
Fact: Our audience’s attention spans are getting shorter. Social media, video games and TV are actually re-wiring our brain’s attention span. Seriously.
Fact: Our audiences are addicted to technology and get downright agitated if they can’t get a regular fix of email, facebook, sports scores, twitter, etc.
Fact: Musical theater is nothing if not adaptable to the times and current tastes.
That said, before we start shrinking and shortening all our new musicals to fit into a 90 minute package, I’d like to make a case for the 3 act musical. I’m not talking about back in the day of Shakespeare and the Greeks where you could spend 5 or 6 hours at a time (often standing!) at the theater. Perish the thought!
But how about something like this…
Act 1: 40 minutes
First Intermission: 15 minutes
Act 2: 40 minutes
Second Intermission:15 minutes
Act 3: 30-40 minutes
Total Time: 2 1/2 hours or less!
How long is the average two act musical right now? 2 1/2 hours!
Fact: Having been reprogrammed by modern technology, it’s been proven that our brains have been re-wired to need a break sooner than they used to.
Fact: Our audiences would have twice as many opportunities to tweet, text, check-in and otherwise spread the good word about the show – not to mention get enough of a tech fix that they don’t go into withdrawal half way through a traditional second act.
Fact: With two intermissions theaters would have the opportunity to make twice as much money on concessions
Fact: An extra bathroom break wouldn’t be so bad either!
But what does this do to musical structure you ask? Good question. We’d need a new structure! And that wouldn’t be so bad, since most people can’t get the existing two act structure to work anyway (did I just say that out loud?!).
I’d suggest that this new structure begin and end each act with a bang – what musical didn’t benefit from more big numbers or dramatic cliff hangers? Those pesky TV shows sure know the formula to keep people coming back after the commercial breaks.
Have any of you writers out there broken the mold and written a 3 act book musical recently? I, for one, would be extremely curious to hear how it worked out. I’m not suggesting that this would work for every new musical but a little experimentation couldn’t hurt. It might be time to shake things up on Broadway!