When Maxim Vengerov stepped back onto the stage, the audience was still standing and clapping. He had just played a violin concerto with amazing musicianship, but I only remember what came next:

His encore.

He stepped up to the mic and started to tell The Story of Ferdinand. He told this children’s story with such fondness and ease, through both the text and music (by Alan Ridout), that I was entirely won over. It was delightful (I know that word may sound old-fashioned, but that is the right word). He surprised us with the piece, and he performed it  generously.

I won’t say that I love all encores. Some feel like the audience is bullying the artists so that they get more for their money, rather than praising them into prolonging the program just a little bit more. Performers may resist, and I’ve seen some seem to become annoyed with this extra demand. It terms of exchange, yes, an encore is a musical lagniappe,  that little extra in the baker’s dozen that sweetens the deal. When given brilliantly,  it isn’t mere pandering–it can can cap off an evening in a brilliant way.

I’ve often wondered what would happen if a theatre commissioned an encore. The idea came learning about the Kennedy Center’s Philharmonic Orchestra commissioned encores. The composer who is commissioned to create the short piece is told what the philharmonic orchestra will be performing that night, but the composer does not have to create something ‘like’ that work. At the performances where I heard the encores, I didn’t draw any obvious comparisons between the pieces. The encore was what it was. But, as an audience member, I enjoyed puzzling over it. Even though it clearly was expected part of the program, the encore still had an element of

I love the idea that a playwright could respond to a play with another play.  Usually that has to take the form of an entire play, which has had some great results . But why not see what great insights can come in tightly-bound pieces. And just think how much fun artistic directors literary managers could have in commissioning these pieces, whether they are asking really well known playwrights or helping introduce playwrights with whom the audience may not be familiar. Although this probably wouldn’t sizzle as much as bringing in a big star, it could be just appealing enough to draw in more audience members.

I admit, I can imagine this becoming a pitiful fad and pigeon-hole writers. That said, I don’t think that it has to.

Anyone up for an experiment?

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