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Linda Kirkman explains the origins of this Daily Echo column
and why you should use it more.

WHEN Ray asked me to write a little something for On-Cue he suggested my thoughts on the 2001/2 Curtain Call year might be a possibility – but to avoid being lynched when the Awards are announced in October, I feel I’m on safer ground if I avoid that particular subject. Having discarded it I sat chewing my pen for the next few weeks, totally devoid of any inspiration whatsoever, until a chance remark set me thinking..
And so, ladies, gentlemen and anyone else who may be reading this, my end-of-season ramblings this summer are on the Daily Echo’s Curtain Call itself.
It started ten years ago when one Eoin McManus, who had at some point in his career been a professional theatre director, found himself working at the Echo and being asked to review the occasional amdram show. He quickly realised that there was a lot of talent out there and managed to persuade the then Editor that a page or several should be devoted to the amateur scene on a regular basis.
Thus began Curtain Call, and despite changing the day of our regular slot from time to time, we’re still here – and now with a useful weekly Thursday addition, Noises Off. And what is Curtain Call for? There nothing has changed and its purpose is to put the amateur theatre scene in the spotlight with previews, pictures and reviews. This is a free service with no strings attached – although if you can drum up the support to bring a group to the annual Curtain Call Awards it may well be seen by the powers- that- be as a tangible token of your appreciation.
Seriously though, just tell us about your show, ask us to send a photographer along to a rehearsal and we’ll give you a preview. Sometimes you’ll get plenty of space, sometimes you won’t – it all depends on how much else is on that week, but you will get a mention, and be listed in the What’s On diary for a few weeks, and hopefully that will put a few more bums on seats. Talking of which, that’s another service we offer. Tell us if you’d like to give patrons something like a first night discount or a free cup of coffee and we’ll print the appropriate voucher.
And then there are the reviews. Again, this is a means of advertising that you’re there, although I do understand that just occasionally you might prefer that people hadn’t read the critic’s review of a particular show. At the end of the day though, the reviewer is just one voice, and not everyone will agree with that opinion. I can’t speak for other publications, but what my reviewers have in common is an extensive knowledge of the theatre – in my own case my involvement goes back to 1967. I’ve appeared on stage, helped out backstage, worked in PR at professional venues, been a judge for the TMA awards, written for theatre magazines and interviewed the great and good. So whatever other accusations you throw at us, please don’t tell us we don’t know what we’re talking about. I promise you we do.
While I’m on the subject, in my experience your nearest and dearest will almost always tell you what you want to hear, not what they really think. Be honest, when did you last ask someone their opinion of a production to be told “it was crap, actually”. No, I thought not. Reviewers, on the other hand, are totally unbiased, despite occasional rumours to the contrary.
Then there’s another thing that I know bothers some of you. Once upon a time, back in the good old days, reviews were long, accompanied by a picture, and almost always appeared the day after the show opened. These days that simply doesn’t happen – but please don’t shoot the messenger. I, like my fellow reviewers, write my allotted 200 words as soon as I get home from the theatre, sending it in straight away by e-mail or fax. It goes into a computer ‘basket’, and there it will stay until the sub-editors can find space for it. Even if it does go in quickly it may well be cut to fit in the available space, which is why Ray runs the original full copies of my reviews on this site.
It’s annoying for you and for me if it’s cut, but the harsh truth is that however important the theatre is to us, in the big scheme of things at the Echo it’s no big deal and there are other things of equal importance that have to be fitted in.
Anyway, I digress. Curtain Call exists to give amateur theatre societies FREE PUBLICITY, and for no other reason. But some of you out there ignore us and don’t bother to let us know when you have shows coming up. There are currently well over fifty active societies in the Echo circulation area, so if you don’t come to us the chances are you’ll miss out on a mention. Are you really so sure you can get full houses? Go on, talk to me. What have you got to lose?

Linda Kirkman

By the way, ON-CUE is also agog for details of your productions, plus photographs of the cast in rehearsal as well as in the actual production itself. The latter wil help to enhance your reviews. RS

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