I like press kits. Holding one makes me feel special and valuable and important, and of course creating those feelings among the ladies and gentlemen of the media is a, if not the, primary function of Chicago theater. (I learned this on my very first reviewing assignment, when saying “I’m Kelly Kleiman of the Reader” caused the box-office lady to exclaim, “What a beautiful dress you’re wearing!”)
Having said that, I rise today to urge the abolition of the press kit. Every kit represents a pointless act of deforestation, now that photos and press releases and sound clips and background material can all be posted on-line or sent electronically. Put everything on your site, and print the URL on my press ticket. This will save me hours of field-stripping kits, using what paper I can for scratch and saving the folders to pass along to smaller and poorer companies. More important, it will save money for every theater, and trees and energy for the whole planet.
BUT. Please don’t go as far as the fine folks at The New Colony, which has abolished the program. Chicago audiences are very possessive of our actors and designers and directors: we want to know where we’ve seen that guy before, or what that member of the ensemble will be in next. We probably want to know if there’s an intermission. We may even want to see ads for local businesses so we can get a bite to eat or a cup of coffee afterwards. Sure, The New Colony posts its program on-line; but if I recognize an actress, I want to know who she is right now, not go home and look her up after the fact. So until every one of us has a BlackBerry on which to check on-line bios (and God forbid we should encourage people to turn on their BlackBerries in the theater!), don’t let’s go overboard: retain the program. It gives us something to hang onto during the scary parts.
Please omit the big folders, though. And if you need to make us critics feel pampered–and who doesn’t?–a simple paper crown will do. Reusable, of course.