In my recently posted “Best of 2011” blog entry, which was quite enjoyable to compile and explore, I notice that nearly every play on the list benefited from my knowing some additional context or background information about the production. In those cases, it could have been (was) related to the reputation of the producing theatre, newness of the company, intent of the artistic director or some production team member, and in one bittersweet case, the impending closure of the theatre company.
I know that my impressions of all of those shows would have been modestly to strongly different if I had not known additional context about the material or company itself. This realization led me to wonder – how much does context play into impressions of the play for the average theatregoer? I’m sure that studies have been done on this issue in some form or another, but the process could be different or unique depending on the geography, location or association of the theatre itself.