Being an "unruly" and "edgy" theatre may sound hip and cool. With the recent popularity and success of "The Book of Mormon", it seems logical to assume there is huge financial success in being dark, thorny, and edgy, right? Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
Being edgy means choosing to perform art for arts sake, not necessarily for huge crowds. Mostly for a smaller and appreciative audience. And smaller crowds equal smaller returns.
Recently my "edgy" theatre company Paper Wing Theatre, produced a well known show that was more mainstream than usual. This show brought us full houses, huge accolades, and a cry for an extended run, which we could not do. While this was a wonderful surprise, I couldn't help but to think the folks in the audience would not be as enthusiastic for our usual dark lineup.
We have played to audiences of less than 30 the same week we were featured on the cover of our local paper with a rave reviews, merely because the reviewer claimed it to be not only "excellent", "Well acted" and "Superb" but also "dark", "thorny", or "disturbing". In my experience, people will not come to see shows they perceive to be these things.
Now, if you can get them in the door without them knowing they may be seeing something dark or edgy, there is a pretty good chance they will enjoy the show. Something about reading a description that they could be seeing something dark really puts most average theatre goers off.
Maybe there is too much real darkness in the world and people just want to escape the edginess of real life and see the light and fluffy side of theatre. Maybe the thought of witnessing a sharp, unfair, or uncomfortable story is simply too much to handle. Or maybe the projected fear of what we may see onstage is so much worse than the actual "darkness" itself.
No matter the reason, I support the idea to not sensationalize the advertising, and let the play simply stand on its own merits. Otherwise, the fear of the unknown may keep people in their houses instead of in mine.