The world of theater is a dynamic realm of creativity and expression, and behind every successful production lies a series of preview performances. What exactly is a “preview performance,” and why should you consider attending one?

A preview performance refers to the initial performances of a play or musical before it officially opens … so, what you may have heard of as “Opening Night” or “Press Night.”

Preview performances provide the creative team with an invaluable opportunity to identify potential issues and explore areas for improvement that may not have surfaced during rehearsals. They also allow the cast and crew to test the show in front of a live audience. This helps them gauge audience reactions and make adjustments to the performance, such as tweaking dialogue, adjusting pacing, or refining technical aspects. Based on the feedback and observations during previews, the creative team can make final adjustments to enhance the overall quality of the production

Why Attend a Preview Performance? Attending a preview offers a unique insight into a show’s evolution. Unlike rehearsals, where the creative team is actively making changes in the process, previews allow directors and playwrights to observe the show through the eyes of a live audience. So, a preview audience is part of the show in a really unique way!

For world-premiere shows, previews play a particularly significant role in the development puzzle. Based on audience reactions, directors and playwrights may make significant changes to the script, begin planning a new approach to a particular dramatic problem, or cut an element entirely. It’s an exciting period of refinement, ensuring that the final product resonates with the intended emotions and messages. So, when you attend a preview performance, you are still seeing a work in progress and the next performance might be different.

In essence, preview performances are a bridge between the creative process and the final, polished production. They provide a platform for growth, refinement, and collaboration, ensuring that the magic of live theater is finely tuned to captivate and resonate with audiences.

The next time you consider attending a preview, know that you are part of the transformative journey that brings a theatrical production to life.

Kate Baldwin and Burke Moses in The Music Man (2012/13 Season). Photo by Joan Marcus.

Matthew Leiner and Scott Avett in rehearsal for Swept Away. Photo by Chris Vongsawat.

Adrian Blake Enscoe in Swept Away. Photo by Julieta Cervantes.