Some Questions To Help You Enjoy The Show

Nod to Dan Pink who linked to a study conducted among German university students which found that when students were provided a question to consider while learning material or were asked to create their own test questions on the material, they were better able to retain knowledge versus those who were asked to review their notes. The small sample size in the study requires that more detailed research is required.

But the weakness of the study doesn’t have much bearing on my post because it was only the starting point from which my brain made some wild leaps.

In considering how this might be applied in an arts and culture situation I recalled that many organizations already put out study guides which include questions to consider as you watch a performance. I know there is similar content in program books for shows.

And I pretty much ignore all of it. Maybe it is out of ego, thinking I can come to my own conclusions regarding what I am about to see or not wanting someone else to shape my perceptions.

Overall I suspect many other people might ignore/not see those questions as well. I likewise suspect that people might enjoy and understand unfamiliar content if they had some questions to consider bouncing around their head.

I started wondering if having questions posted on lobby monitors or on signs posted in restrooms or other strategic places might be the answer. Just one question or prompt to a screen or page in big font to catch the eye. There might be multiple questions peppered throughout the spaces, but no more than 3-4 in total. They should be focused on helping people understand and enjoy the show in a broad general sense rather than trying to focus on academic minutiae (i.e. “What do you think the color brown signifies?” )

Anyone have any thoughts about it? There has been conversation that a post-Covid world would eliminate printed program materials in favor of display screen/projected/virtual delivery so this somewhat dovetails with that as a potential practice.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

I am currently the Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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