From the publisher...
Of Types and Typos —
Protecting your name in print
Why did the reviewer spell your name wrong? Probably because your printed
program did. Most often, that's all that the reviewer — and
even the editor or fact checker — has to go by. And in order to
be most helpful, the reviewer's turnaround time is
But instead of explaining away the problem, why not attack it at its
source? Recently, I saw an excellent production with a terrible playbill.
Photos of cast members were all different sizes, most with faces grinning
blankly at the camera, features blurred and grained by cheap photocopy
technology. The text was full of misspellings and grammatical errors,
compounded by poor layout and typesetting. And the cover had outdated
information on it. This do-it-cheaply-above-all ethic hardly reflects
well on a production team that labored extremely hard to create a work
of art on stage.
I've also seen playbills badly in need of a proofread that proudly
state the name of the proofreader, and expensive,
high-gloss programs with glaring layout errors
(such as graphics and text blocked out, and even
artwork upside down). I've seen programs that spell the same actor's
name two or three different ways within a couple of pages. And you wonder
why we guess wrong.
It's sad, and it demeans your production.
"But our programs are produced by volunteers!" you say.
Certainly, but publications professionals volunteer
time as well. You wouldn't put an unskilled performance
on stage, so why are you putting one into the hands
of every member of the audience? And if you're
a producer or director, you wouldn't allow a professional
proofreader to stand in for you, so ... well, you
get the idea.
If you honestly don't know a publications professional willing
to donate services, try the nearest college. Many
graphic design and writing students will produce your program for free
in exchange for the portfolio piece, and many professionals will consider
exchanging services for an ad in the program. And if, after all this,
you still insist on sticking with your current system, here are some
hints that will yield better results:
- Follow publishing standards. Use only one space
between sentences. Use only typographic (curved)
quotation marks and apostrophes, and use em-dashes
instead of double-hyphens. Do a search/replace
to make sure you've done all of this consistently.
- Print from a PDF, not from a photocopy master.
This will give you consistent results that rival
first-generation output. You can email your PDF
to most commercial photocopy/print services.
- Enter the names of your cast and crew into
your computer spellchecker, and then use it.
Have all production team members proofread their
own names and bios two weeks before going to
press. Then have them check again after corrections
- Finally, have at least two pairs of eyes look
at the final version.
Sound extreme? Consider the ramifications. Your playbill is all that
remains, long after your production has faded into
memory. It may
be the only lasting record of what you have done. Shouldn't
it do you justice?
At theatrelouisville.org, we encourage our reviewers to comment on
the entire theatrical experience — from sight lines to climate
control to acoustics, and everything else that
goes into that day's or evening's encounter — and from now
on, I'm asking
them to include the printed program in that.
I hope you'll all be one step ahead. It will help you and your
theatre far more than you can imagine.
— A.S. Waterman
Copyright © 2008 A.S. Waterman. All rights reserved.