One of the reasons I like to arrive early at the theatre is so I can read through the programmes. At the local amateur and semi-professional level, I like to read the directors' notes and the biographies of the casts and crews. At the professional level, I enjoy reading the notes about the performances.
Lately, though, I have been disappointed by many theatre programmes.
Several of the recent London Fringe Festival shows had no programmes at all. They should; even if they are only quick half-sheet notes. Furthermore, those shows that did have programmes provided useful and interesting information for the most part, but they didn't distribute them until we went into the theatre, which was only five minutes before the performances began and hardly allowed enough time to read the programmes in advance. In the future, it would be nice if the producers of Fringe Festival shows all had programmes and distributed them at the time we buy our tickets so that while we are waiting in the lobby we can read about the actors and read the programme notes.
Also over the past month I have attended several shows in Stratford. The Stratford Festival provides extensive programme notes for their shows, but they also have some problems with their programmes. First, the print is gray, not black, and the lack of contrast makes the programmes difficult to read in the dim theatre light. And second, the blathering insights from professionals are just too long in the time available and too, well, blathery, for my tastes (though I understand others might like all those words).
One programme I really liked recently was the one for Marlowe's Edward II. The director (Kaitlyn Rietdyk) wrote interesting notes and insisted the actors' bios list only three credits and nothing else. A general statement thanking everyone's family and friends suffices; colour me curmudgeonly, but there's no need for each actor to write these things in their bios.