The Art of the Business, Part 4 – Repeat After Me: “Facebook is my Friend”

For a downloadable or streaming audio podcast of this article, click here.

You could not possibly be a bigger holdout than I was with Facebook. I resisted joining for a really long time. I thought “why do I need yet another time-waster when I’m online? I already check my email obsessively, do I need to have the temptation to be checking Facebook all the time now?” But, like most other people, finally I gave in. And yes, spent way too much time at the beginning updating my profile and searching for friends. But then I started to realize what a powerful marketing tool Facebook was, and now I use it at least half the time for that purpose.

In case you’ve been in a cave this past year without television, radio, internet or newspapers, Facebook is an online social networking tool. It’s free—basically what you do is sign up and get yourself and account. Then you get your own page, or profile, where you can put information about yourself, what colour socks you like, what you had for breakfast, what your dog had for breakfast. Then, you create a network by asking people to be your friend. Once someone is your friend, you can message them, send them virtual gifts, URLs, that kind of thing. Facebook also has groups and events that you can create or join. If you create an event or a group, you are its administrator, and that gives you the ability to message all the members of the group. It’s fantastic stuff.

A few words of practical advice about Facebook. First off, I wouldn’t encourage you to create a group unless you are pretty famous, or you have something quirky going on (I belong to “If Alan Doyle from Great Big Sea kissed me, I’d be a happy woman”, for example). You can also create fan pages, but again, I’d steer away from that unless you are Great Big Sea, or a decent-sized corporation.

What I do is create an event for all of my clients. Because my work tends to be rooted in dates (show runs, etc), creating events is perfect for me. It allows me to upload all the event information, pictures, and videos, URLs for media stories when they come out, and I am able to message anyone who said they are or might be coming.

If it’s your first time creating an event, here’s what I’ve learned:

1. Be really, really careful about your dates. While you can go back and edit a lot of things on your event page, the dates you cannot.
2. Make your event accessible to the “global” Facebook community. I once made it available just to the Vancouver network, thinking that anyone from out of town wasn’t going to come to see the show anyway. But not everyone (even people who live in Vancouver) belong to the Vancouver network. Tricky…
3. When you invite people to your event, encourage them to invite their friends.
4. Know that only your opening night (or the first date you have on your event) will show up in the updated information on your Facebook account. After that, if someone wants to find your event, they will have to search for it. However, you can still message people during the run of the show to let them know it is half over, closing Saturday, etc.

Facebook is good for other kinds of artists, too. Musicians and filmmakers can upload videos, photographers and visual artists can make photo albums of their work. Dancers and actors can upload demos and trailers.

A word of caution: as with everything on the internet, be careful about how much personal information you include. Don’t have your home address up there. A lot of people I know don’t even have their email address. Make your privacy settings high, so that people have to be your friend (ie: authorized by you) to see anything on your profile.

Facebook is a lot of fun. But it can also be a great way of getting the word out, and building a buzz… And yes, I will be your friend, but only if you mention The Art of the Business.

So, until next time, here’s to more bums in seats everywhere…

Rebecca Coleman

Rebecca is a contributing columnist and founder of Titania Productions, a Vancouver Marketing and Public Relations Company.

I Heart Charlie Rose

This is great, because I was looking for something to fill the remaining 30 minutes I had left unscheduled in my week. I recently discovered another motherload of theatre-related discussion on the webs (thanks Benny): Charlie Rose’s official site has every interview he’s ever done since 1991- in free and easy streaming – and the archives contain a huge section devoted entirely to the theatre types you want to hear talk for a half hour or so. And just check out the names: Albee, Bogosian, Mamet, Miller, Stoppard, Shanley, Shawn, Pinter (feel free to skip ahead when you get the idea), Suzan-Lori Parks, Robert Wilson, Uta-frickin’-Hagen, Tony Kushner…and these are just the playwrights! This doesn’t even scratch the surface, scads of actors talking to Charlie about their craft, producers, it’s a chocolate factory of discourse, you’ll love it. I might have to start cutting back on sleep, however. Something got to give.

Click here for the wonderful world of Charlie.

This One Goes to Eleven: Daniel Martin

A native Vancouverite, Daniel got himself a Masters Degree in Sociology in New Zealand before returning home to study acting. In 1999 he and friend David Mott co-founded the Upintheair Theatre Society and have been going strong ever since. They had a recent hit play with 120bpm, a site-specific work about Vancouver’s underground rave scene, mounted in a warehouse at a secret location. Each audience member was given a street corner to wait on, and was then met by a member of the company and guided to the event. Pretty cool, eh?

Upintheair is also responsible for the annual Walking Fish Festival on Granville Island, a showcase of new work by emerging artists. These guys are taking their responsibility to our theatre seriously.

1.) In one word, describe your present condition.

Hopeful.

2.) With as many words as you need, describe the present condition of the Vancouver theatre scene.

More talent than opportunity. More ideas than money.

3.) Why theatre, and why in Vancouver?

It seemed more exciting than Sociology. No, honestly, theatre because nothing makes me feel like I am doing exactly what I want with my life like being in a room creating or rehearsing a show with people I respect and want to work with. And Vancouver because this is where the people I want to live with are.

4.) In terms of choosing material, how do we ensure that our theatre is relevant?

Know Thy Audience.

5.) In your experience, what is the biggest advantage and biggest disadvantage to putting up site-specific theatre?

It’s cheap and produces fantastic originality and creativity. But no one knows where to find it. And theres no lighting rig.

6.) Is it possible for the indie theatre community to work together as a whole to market and promote itself?

I doubt it. I think it is too difficult, especially when you have groups that are ad-hoc, or one offs – how do you co-ordinate in a meaningful, ongoing, manner? On the other hand, See Seven has shown that you can do it successfully, but you need a core of operating organizations and determined individuals to carry the brunt of the load.

7.) What has been the largest obstacle in developing your own theatre company?

Not having enough money to pay artists.

8.) Where will Van theatre be in 5 years?

Somewhere similar to where it is now, and wondering how we got so little out of the Olympics.

9.) What did you think of the Open Space?

It was one of the most inspirational events of the last year.

10.) What are your top 3 theatre reads?

Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia, David Mamet’s True and False, William Ball’s A Sense of Direction.

11.) What’s next?

Upintheair Theatre’s new creation, Johnny Grant. It’s based on the life of my great-great-great grandfather, John Francis Grant, a Metis Mountainman. We will be work-shopping the new script in the summer and producing in the winter of 2008/09. It’s a two man show, created and performed by myself and Dave Mott, directed by Heidi Taylor, and it’s gonna have puppets and multi-media and music and dancing. We are very excited about it.

“Okay folks, speak up.”

The following is a comment Colin Thomas posted today on his own This One Goes to Eleven interview. I’m reprinting it here not because I’m pushing people to leave more comments on my site (although we do secretly crave the validation of the comments section, us bloggers), but because I believe it to be vital that the theatre artists in Vancouver develop a more direct and open communication with their audience, towards nothing more than getting their bums in our seats. I’m not talking about our friends here, of course, but those folks whose absence we’re always bitching about on the slow nights of the run. Critics such as Colin are quite often the general population’s routine conduit to our work, and they provide an ideal forum to get the conversation started. My thanks to Colin for declaring his accessibility here.

Okay folks, speak up.

One of the great frustrations I have as a critic, is that I want my voice to be part of a discussion, but people hardly ever talk back.

Within the theatre community, a weird kind of etiquette seems to have developed that limits artists’ choices to two: either you keep mum about reviews (and are either happy with them or develop deep and simmering resentments), or you vent your rage in personalized attacks in letters to the editor.

I’d really like to have a rigorous, respectful exchange—about the work, not about personalities. But I can’t do that on my own.

By the way, the Straight seems to be inviting online responses from readers. Check out the little microphone icon at the bottom of the reviews. It would be great if people took advantage of this opportunity.

And I’m all for thoughtful letters to the editor. I can and do learn from them.

Because I’m a critic, my voice will always be disproportionately loud, but the letters section is the most-read part of the paper.

You can contact me personally, too. My full name is in the phone book, and you can email me through the Straight.

The Support Continues: Laughing for Babz!

Never let it be said that the Vancouver arts community doesn’t take care of its own. In yet another addition to the fundraising drive to facilitate Babz Chula’s urgent and progressive cancer treatments, the One Night Stand comedy night at Gastown’s Lyric School of Acting will be donating all the proceeds from this Saturday’s show to the Babz Chula Society.

One Night Stand is one of the best kept secrets of the city, a once-a-month stand-up jam that routinely features some of the best comic talent in the city, and if you don’t yet know, that’s saying something. The comedians that are appearing on our too-few stages right now are the best I’ve seen in years, we are on the cusp of a stand-up renaissance right now.

Head on down to Lyric on Saturday the 12th to hear what I’m talking about, but only if you like laughing yourself stupid. And donating a few bucks to take care of someone very important.

Hope to see you there…