Ok sure, he’s a dick, but from a certain point of view…

…is there any bigger compliment to a piece of theatre? Especially a piece of LaBute…

As reported by Daniel Lehman in Blogstage:

In the middle of a performance of Neil LaBute’s reasons to be pretty this weekend, actress Marin Ireland ([below] right) was reportedly the target of one male audience member’s anger when she delivered a scathing monologue.

During her first act monologue, in which Ireland’s character Steph embarrasses her ex-boyfriend (played by Thomas Sadoski) with a list of humiliating facts and all the things she finds wrong with him, a male audience member stood up and began verbally assaulting the actress, including calling her a “bitch” among other expletives. (Reports of the incident are quick to note that this was not part of the performance.)

Ireland and Sadoski, who shared the stage at the time, continued the scene as if nothing had happened. Security has been raised at the theater in response to the incident.

rtbp

Nice work Marin. Nailed it.

The Next Stage: Now with UQ Events listings

uq31Hey, Vancouver theatre companies, have you jumped on the UQ Events train yet? It’s a social-network-y site that is poised to become a real influencer in Vancouver’s entertainment scene, and a great fit for indie theatre promotions. It’s a fantastic service, and it’s free. The folks running the site are seriously cool, too. Here’s how I know…

In December I got an email from UQ’s Marketing Director Michelle Lanthier. We had actually talked before, she had quite proactively contacted me about the company last September, which I duly checked out and, finding it a great concept and a unique service, gave a bump to on this site. It turns out ‘proactive’ is UQ’s middle name, Michelle was contacting me this time to ask for a coffee meeting to discuss some promotional ideas for her company with The Next Stage, which I was rather humbly happy to agree to. The result of this meeting is the new link in the sidebar titled ‘Click for Vancouver Theatre Calendar’. It’ll take you to The Next Stage’s UQ calendar which lists all the upcoming shows of the companies that we’ve subscribed to on the site. (Each company as well as your calendar on UQ broadcasts an RSS feed, which you can subscribe to in an email-like application such as Google Reader, so the site will send updates to you when new shows are imminent. If you’re not yet familiar with RSS feeds, trust me, it’s all way easier than that sounds.)

So far all the civic companies and a bunch of local theatres are on UQ – The Arts Club, Performance Works, Theatre at UBC, The Playhouse, The Cultch, Studio 58, Pacific Theatre. PuSh is on there, anything by Rebecca Coleman (always at the cutting edge, that one) – so a movement’s already begun, and ready for all of us to jump on board.

The site has a very easy interface for all the perks it offers; if you’ve used Facebook you’ll be able to navigate UQ with no problem. It’s full of great features to use, or not, it’s totally up to you how in-depth you want to get: photos, video, linkage, you can add ‘friends’ just like all good social networking sites and send direct messages back and forth…it’s certainly an idea whose time has come; web 2.0 concepts for linking the independent arts. But like all of these fun ideas it spreads virally, so have a look and if you like the idea, spread it around a little. Like I’m doing here.

I had to stop Michelle at some point during our meeting and say flat out “you know my readership is pretty much all in independent theatre, right?”

“Of course.”

“So I feel like I’ve got to tell you, you’re never going to make any money off of us. Like, none. We don’t have any, that’s kind of part of our thing right now.”

She politely indicated that yes, thank you Mr. Blogger, I’m aware.

“So, if you don’t mind my asking, why are you going to all this effort with us?”

Michelle patiently explained that UQ isn’t about promoting through sponsorship (they sell unobtrusive ad space), and that, being an independent startup themselves, they really want to get behind our industry, and see it proliferate. We’re exactly the demographic that they want as members on the site. Besides, says she, she met her business partner in theatre school. So there.

Good enough for me. Have a look around and see if you like it, and if you do and join up, friend me and I’ll add your company or show to The Next Stage UQ Calendar. This could be the start of something big.

The Art of the Business 11 – What??!? I need another photo shoot?

"Business-y" photo of Rebecca by Pink Monkey StudiosLast month, I wrote a post on the importance of having a good publicity photo. This month, I talk about the importance of having a good production photo.

But, you say, photo shoots are expensive and time-consuming. Can’t I get away with just one?

Nope, sorry, not gonna do it. Here’s why:

1. You need production photos for your archives. You never know when you might need archive photos: for your website, grant applications, etc.

2. If you were lucky enough to get preview coverage, you must have different photos to acccompany your review. Newspapers generally don’t like to run the same photos that they ran for previews, and they generally like to run photos that are from the show, with the actual set, costumes, lights, props and actors.

Usually, these shoots take place during the final dress rehearsal, so the photographer can flit around and take the pictures without disturbing the audience. Alternatively, some people schedule it for the break between two-show days. The earlier the better–if you have dalies reviewing your show, you’ll need them pretty quickly, so that’s why most people go with the final dress rehearsal option.

Here’s one last tip for you (thanks to Simon for this one): most of the indie companies I work for don’t have the ability to upload their photos to a website for the press to download, which is what the big companies do. Flickr doesn’t work, because it won’t let you upload the size of photos you need to for publication. Photo Bucket is an excellent alternative. Allows you to store your high-res photos, all you have to do is email the URL to the press.

Here are some examples:

This is the publicity photo for Metamorphoses (image Pink Monkey Studios):
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This was one of the production photos:

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This was the publicity image for Exit Commander Kitty:
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And here is a production photo:
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Bone in Her Teeth by Leaky Heaven Circus has some of the best photos I have ever seen:

Publicity:
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Production:
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And my all time favorite:
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Rebecca is a contributing columnist and founder of Rebecca Coleman Marketing and Media Relations, a Vancouver PR company. She blogs at artofthebiz.com and twitters under rebeccacoleman.

The Art of the Business Part 10 – The importance of a good publicity photo

Kirsten Slenning as Kitty. Photo Credit: Cory Dawson

"Business-y" photo of Rebecca by Pink Monkey StudiosIf you are producing a play, you know you need them. Gone are the days of putting the word out about a photo call, and having a bunch of photographers and TV cameras show up to get a shot to accompany a story or review. Those guys just don’t have the resources–you have to bring it to them. And, you gotta be smart about it.

A good publicity photo is more than a necessity. A really interesting and arresting image can actually get you additional media coverage. I recently did publicity for TigerMilk Collective’s Exit Commander Kitty. I got them a preview in the Vancouver Province, but they got themselves on the cover of the entertainment section with this photo.

Here are some tips for getting a great picture.

Vaughn Jones. Photo Credit: Pink Monkey Studios

1. Hire a pro. Having your BFF take a bunch of photos with their Cannon Sureshot is not going to cut it. Figure out how much money you have to spend, then put it out some photographers, and see what they can do for you. Try to hire someone that specializes in theatre photography, and look at their websites and past work. My favorite is Pink Monkey Studios. They did this fantastic image for Metamorphoses.

Mylene Dinh-Robic and Adam Lolacher

2. Go for a theme. Do not, under any circumstances, and I can’t emphasize this enough, take a publicity shot that is a scene from the play. Many theatre companies get caught up in “but the set’s not done yet, the costumes aren’t done yet, we can’t get the shot.” You don’t need the set, you don’t need the costumes, what you need is an idea. Think about your show, and try to boil it down to theme that is only a few words long. And then think about a visual image for your theme. Think ‘iconic.’ This image from Beirut is one of my all-time favorites.

3. Get a little variety. Newspapers will often ask for “portrait” (which means the longest part of the photo is vertical) or “landscape” (which means the longest part of the photo is horizonal). It depends upon what kind of space they have to fit the photo in, so make sure you have good shots in both formats.

4. But not too much variety. There was a time in the past when you needed to have B&W and Colour. Not any more. Just take colour shots. Do B&W if you want, for emphasis, or to fit with your theme, but these guys all have Photoshop and know how to use it.

5. Go big. The newspapers like photos that are as big as you can get them. So that means, a really high resolution, like 300dpi, and big (often they are 4-5MGs each). That way, they can do what they like with them–use them big, like on the cover of the entertainment section, or crop them down or shrink them to accompany a review.

6. Know your cutlines. Cutlines are the information about who is in the photo–the names of the actors, the characters they play, and it’s good to include the name of the photographer, although a lot of papers can’t print that.

7. Timing is everything. Lots of people like to use their publicity shot for posters, etc., so often they are done long before rehearsals even start. Even earlier if you are planning a season brochure. If you don’t have them done that early, I recommend you get them done as early as possible–no less than 2-3 weeks before you open so that you have images to go along with previews.

Publicity pictures are an incredibly important part of marketing your show, so do put lots of thought and care into them.

Look for information on Production Photo shoots and B-roll in future posts.

Until then, here’s to bums in seats everywhere!

Rebecca Coleman

“Business-y” Photo of Rebecca by Pink Monkey Studios

Rebecca is a contributing columnist and founder of Titania Productions, a Vancouver Marketing and Public Relations Company. For more of Rebecca’s Art of the Business advise and observations, check out her blog here.


Fringe wrap-up: Is everybody satisfied?

And so, with the announcement of the 2008 Pick of the Fringe, the curtains fall on yet another Fringe season, and the overarching humor in the air seems to indicate a general feeling of success amongst its perpetrators. Just how successful was it? How do we measure the success of this festival in today’s theatrical climate? This, of course, depends entirely on what you consider the purpose of the Fringe to be, and what you hope to get out of it.

According to the party line, most Fringe artists are innovators who want to throw some new stuff against a black box wall to see if it sticks. This is the value most commonly touted by its defendants as the core ideology behind the invention of the thing when someone dares to criticize performance quality at the Fest. While this is certainly true for some of the artists that got served first because they came first, there is no large body of evidence to support the thesis that much of the fare on offer is edge-cutting, out-on-a-limb theatre being taken out for a low-risk test drive. Pity.

Most of what is on offer these days is a) solid, tried-and-true material that is proven to be road worthy – and indeed is out there on the road making a tidy living for its Fringe-pro neo-minstrels. Or b) small-cast shows that have some material they want to do but are without time, money or an administrative team to handle the workload involved in mounting their piece outside of the finance-friendly production machine that is the Fringe organization. Which is great, it really is, it makes for an interesting enough menu to choose from, but how does this affect our indie theatre scene the rest of the year? Does the Fringe, with its soft cushion of low fiscal risk, actually hurt the city’s theatre scene in the broad view?

Short answer, of course, is no. That’s ridiculous. Any vehicle that raises theatre in the public consciousness and celebrates the form is a positive force on the industry as a whole. But how much potential from that annual high-profile are we squandering? How can we be better using the Fringe as a springboard to bounce the medium deeper into the collective consciousness of a city that just doesn’t think about us that much, if at all?

Like it or not, there is a large percentage of the Fringe audience (not counting the artists supporting each other in said audience, who make up a mighty big percentage themselves) that only see live theatre during Fringe time. They are secretaries and baristas and accountants who love to be part of the buzzy ‘scene’ of the thing, then brush their hands together, say ‘that’s that’ and put theatre out of their mind for the rest of the year. (It’s easy to do, indie theatre hasn’t exactly perfected ‘in-yer-face’ marketing yet.) This condition is directly proportional to our du Maurier Jazz festival here in Vancouver, can’t get tickets to the big shows, gotta stand in line for most of the rest, but when that circus ships out, how many rooms here sustain year-round live Jazz? Two? Three if you count that one Robson hotel lounge on the weekends? Those Fringers are our target audience, and they just need to be finessed, coaxed back out into a black box every other month or so, with an uninitiated frind in tow. Did we talk to them? Or more importantly, listen to them? Did we get some contact info from them to keep in touch? Give them something to remember us by? Did we make them feel like they were part of something, as opposed to making them feel like they were watching some people who are a part of something?

Now, if you’re entered into the Fringe as an exercise, as something to do to feel artisty between Battlestar auditions, then none of this applies to you. Likewise if you’re a performer who has chosen to parlay the Fringe experience into a steady touring income. (Both of these, I would like to note, are fine objectives, and I do not deride you for them nor ask you to reconsider.) But if you’re a theatre artist with any aspirations towards developing a self-sustaining and local industry around your craft, I ask you this: are you taking full advantage of the little bit of hip that the Fringe Festival generates in town every year? And this is directed at the indie companies that have moved beyond the need to Fringe their work as well. Should the Fringe simply exist to give a leg up to a few artists who managed to make the cut that year? Or can we, with a little bit more effort, transform it into an Expo for selling ourselves as the must-have accessory to the urban lifestyle?

I think we can. We will, however, have to do it as a community. And we’ll have to make a little more noise.

The Art of the Business Part 8: Becoming more Bloggable

Last month I talked about the basics of starting your own blog. In this month’s column, the second of three on blogging, I talk about how to use new media as a way of promoting your art event.

If you google Vancouver blog, the number one hit is Miss 604. Rebecca Bolwitt is a born-and-bred-in-Vancouver professional blogger and podcaster, whose Vancouver-centric blog garners 40,000-50,000 unique visitors a month.

I interviewed Rebecca about how new media is changing the face of traditional media, and how we, as artists, can use it to help market ourselves.

RC: How do you think blogs are changing the face of traditional media?

RB: Blogs are making traditional media know that they need to be more immediate. The thing about a blog versus a newspaper is that it [the newspaper] can’t change. The thing about blogging is that you can post a news story in the morning, and it can change through the day. You can have comments on it, you can continue the discussion. What blogging is doing for traditional media is that it’s making them realize that it’s becoming a two way discussion. You can hear back from your readers, and not just in traditional ways like letters to the editors.

Secondly, you can also go mobile—people can get updates on their phone, have online subscriptions—RSS—so the news goes to your inbox every morning, instead of your front door mat.

Thirdly, anybody can be a producer. Anybody can produce content, have people pay attention to it and watch it. Everyone can be a part of what the internet is becoming. And what the internet is becoming is something that traditional media outlets can no longer ignore—since it is so huge, it is so big, and it’s engaging people in conversation.

RC: Do you think blogs are gaining in credibility (as compared to mainstream media)?

RB: Yes, definitely. If I’m writing a post about Vancouver history, I research my pieces; from my dad, from textbooks, from online sources. I can quote them, and link back to my original source, which you can’t always do in a newspaper. People can also call you on it if you make mistakes. In that way, blogs can be very credible. We are gaining in credibility, however it is a very slow process.

A lot of people are scared of bloggers. People are still very hesitant to trust bloggers, because there are few bad seeds out there, and there are some who are doing it just for fun, but there are also those who would like to gain credibility in the mainstream realm.

RC: If I have an art event to promote, and I invite the mainstream media to come out and see it, we have a kind of unspoken contract that we will let them in for free, and they will give us some press about it. Does it work the same way with bloggers?

RB: Absolutely. If you are willing to give me access to your event and blog about it, certainly.
The thing about bloggers is, if you invite us to your event, we are very open and honest and transparent. That’s the big thing about blogging. If we’ve been invited to an event for free and in exchange we are writing a post about it, we are going to be honest about our experience. We can say if we had a bad time—or not. That’s just the way it is. We have no editor to report to, just ourselves, and as long as we let them know. I don’t want people to think I am being paid off to write positive reviews.

RC: How do I know that a blogger is legitimate? Anyone can have their own blog, what if they are just looking for free tickets?

RB: This is a very valid question. To know a blogger is legitimate, you need to know their first and last name, not just their handle. You need to know who this person is. Google them, and find out that they don’t also have a blog that is terrible and illegal. Ask around town and see if people know them, have heard of them. But most importantly, read their blog, and see what they’re all about. Make sure they are the right type of person you would want at your event—if it’s a fit. Also, if you are looking for the most reach, don’t be afraid of asking for their stats. Bloggers check their stats. How many unique visitors do they have every month?

RC: How do I pitch my event to you?

RB: If someone copies and pastes a press release in an email to me without even a “Hi, Rebecca!” or a “Hi, Miss 604!” I’m probably not going to pay much attention to it. You need to be personal. You need to know what the blogger’s about. Read their site.

Let the blogger have free access to it. For me, if it’s not on my radar as something I’m already going to attend or can/would attend, I would need that incentive.

To pitch an event to a blogger, you have to realize what they are writing about, You have read their site, and then contact them, either through email or a contact form on their site.

RC: Is it okay to ask a blogger about their stats?

RB: Yes it is!! 90% of bloggers look at their stats, and where traffic is coming from. A big thing for bloggers is to give them link love. What that means is, if you have a website link back to the blogger once they’ve written about you. That makes us feel really good. We like that people are paying attention, that they are open to bloggers, open to communication. It makes me want to deal with them in the future, and recommending them to my friends.

RC: What are some good blogs to pitch to?

RB: Try pitching to the group blogs in Vancouver. I also blog for Metroblogging Vancouver, and we have about 8 authors right now. Some focus on politics, some on food, so you can submit to us and someone will pick it up. Beyond Robson is another Vancouver group blog. The good thing about group blogs is that, more than likely, someone will be writing about your subject matter, and pick it up.

Other good ones to submit to are ones you read. If you read someone’s blog, and you have an event coming up, pitch it to them. If it’s a food event, find some food bloggers. If it’s a sporting event, find some sports bloggers. A good way to find popular blogs is to just google them. It means that they are doing it right, and have excellent SEO (search engine optimization).

RC: Any additional words of wisdom for using blogs/bloggers to promote your art event?

RB: The biggest thing in dealing with bloggers is reading blogs. Find some daily reads, the ones that you enjoy, and those are probably going to be the ones you are wanting to pitch to. You don’t want to send them a big huge press release, you want to be personal. NO generic “Dear Sir/Madam”. Be personable. Blogging is very personal, it’s a real discussion, it’s person to person, it’s comments, it’s transparent. Bloggers love free stuff, and when they get free stuff, they will write about it. Make sure you supply them with your website so they can link back to you, which will help drive traffic to your site.

In conclusion:

  • NO copy and paste press releases
  • Let the blogger know you’re reading their stuff
  • Make sure the event is a good fit
  • Link back

– Rebecca Bolwitt, Rebecca Coleman, Simon Ogden and Rob Parker of YaYah Studios will all be participating on a panel discussion tenatively called The New Face of Marketing: Facebook, Text and the Bloggers’ World at the Making a Scene Theatre Conference on Friday, November 14 from 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Granville Island.

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

Miss 604 image via Miss 604

For a streaming or downloadable podcast of this post (the interview in its entirety), click here.