Premiering in November at DOC NYC, America’s largest documentary festival, Repeat Attenders is a documentary exploring musical theatre super fans from all over the world. I spoke with the creator and director Mark Dooley about the project and what he hopes people will take away from the film.
The documentary has just been accepted into DOC NYC and whilst there are no known future screenings, the documentary is set to be a great exploration of why people attend the same productions repetitively.
Filmed over five years this documentary addresses why serial repeat attenders “do these things that many people do [go to the theatre], but why they do it so repetitively to the same production so many times. It’s trying to get them [the super fans] to explore that for themselves when they perhaps haven’t thought about that before.”
After Mark found himself always asking about the fans whenever he met people who were involved with musicals he found a topic within an area he was passionate about that he “didn’t really know anything about”. After some research Mark discovered an extreme version of the musical theatre fandom with the number of times people having seen the same show quite amazing. This sparked his curiosity and with the drive to prove to himself that he could start a very big project and finish it, the documentary began.
Initial enquires for the film began in 2011 but the project didn’t really get off the ground until 2012 when Mark was living in London. After working at TKTS Mark began researching and reaching out to production companies. After receiving positive responses from The Really Useful Group and Starlight Express in Bochum Germany who both were happy for Mark to use show vision, he knew he could not let this go. The response was unexpected but created an amazing opportunity and this became the motivation to make this project a reality.
Filmed in New York, London, Europe, San Diego, Los Angeles, Melbourne and Brisbane, the documentary meets people with attendance to the one show in single digits, some in the hundreds and for one, over a thousand. Mark explained that it is the big blockbusters and long running shows which tended to have the most repeat attenders, with Starlight Express, Cats and Rent popping up the most.
An insight that developed for Mark throughout the filming of the documentary was that at first, he judged these people as people who don’t have a grasp of reality, but after engaging with them, this was not his experience. This experience allowed for self-reflection and made him think about how he behaved towards people in his community. Filming made him realise that “we all do stuff repetitively, we just don’t realise it and it may not be as bizarre or as interesting as repeat attending”. This self-reflection showed him what he got out of the experience and he took that direction for the film in the hopes that audiences will have this same experience.
The question on everyone’s lips, what show Mark was a repeat attender of? Wicked was his most repeated show, after seeing it 8 times in various locations. “I think it’s because of the pure spectacle of it. I know that I am guaranteed to get a big spectacle.” However, after asking Mark what show he wants to see again, surprisingly nothing came to mind. Mark explained that for him, this isn’t his experience with theatre, he relates to wanting to repeat the experience but for him it doesn’t translate to repeat attending. Mark highlighted that when people, himself included want to experience a show again, we can relive it in our memory and through cast recordings. The difference for repeat attenders is that they get the “real 3-D experience rather us just remembering our memories”. Mark’s personal experience developed an interest in an area he was unfamiliar with and is a testament to what the documentary will show, created by someone who doesn’t have that need will give us a greater understanding of those who do.
When asked why we should watch this film, Mark has a clear idea of why people will find this interesting and what he hopes people will get out of it,
“If you aren’t a fan of musical theatre, you will enjoy this film because it’s really not about musical theatre in a way, it’s about exploring why we do things repetitively, it’s about exploring the psychology of what happens to us when we follow something that we love and have that attachment about. It also gives you an understanding of other people and their motivations and it makes us think about why perhaps we should be a little more understanding about other people’s quirks and eccentricities.”
The film certainly seems interesting, and for people who are not a part of this group of super fans, it will be a way to understand this part of our community.
To find out more on the documentary head to https://www.repeatattenders.com/ or check out the Facebook page. Sound off in the comments and let us know what shows you are a repeat attender of and what is on your list to see again.