Fixing theatre, one tweet at a time

Random tweet from Rebecca on Tuesday morning:

Off to have breakfast with @cynnamons. Vancouver theatre publicists unite!

To which I responded with a flippant:

@rebeccacoleman @cynnamons Hi girls! If you figure out how to fix #theatre today, let me know?

To which Travis responded with a considered:

@thenextstagemag Give a leading indie company in each city a budget half as large as the largest company for three years.

And then is was game on, in < 140 characters.

thenextstagemag: Who’s got some ideas on how to #fixtheatre?


hummingbird604: Create targeted socmed campaign to influence funding organizations 4 theatre

thenextstagemag: Convince each large civic theatre to foster one indie company on a side stage per year, as many productions as they can fit

autoblot: Develop resources to help small companies learn how to reach beyond the ‘family and friends’ audience.

walt828: teach artists entrepreneurial skills. REAL entrepreneurial skills

thenextstagemag: Take one non-theatre friend to a play/month, and stick around afterward to meet the cast

brovermania: Small, affordable venues, cheap tickets, short plays, beer.

performaddict: Integrate video games with theatre and open the shows explicitly to gamers.

IanAMartin: What about free booze during performances? Or even ‘drinking in the seats’ being ok?

miketobias: @DallasTheater: Michael Kaiser says arts orgs need federal policy, not just fed funding:

theatre_20: foster a new generation of theatre-goer’s by creating theatre that is about them rather than their ancestors

happierman: make it affordable. make it often. make it interactive.

nyneofuturists: be willing to change start times, audience/stage layout, and allow beer

foyee: compromise less. Don’t give up on an idea because someone tells you it can’t be done.

halcyontony: don’t be scared to try something new?

foyee: Longer rehearsal/workshop time. Venue rent subsidies.

performaddict: Figure out how to make it cheaper. I’m all for a living wage, but most theatre is prohibitively expensive

foyee: Be inclusive, not exclusive and stop being pretentious about our art.

lacouvee: non traditional venues, non traditional times, make it relevant, exciting & dangerous also affordable

lacouvee: Talk about everybody who works in theatre, not just the actors & directors

lacouvee: reach out to minorities, help theatre to reflect our diverse cultural mosaic

thenextstagemag: Get loud and blog.

getrealtheatre: Getting them young means teaching drama, stagecraft in schools – this fosters a lifelong love of the art

DaveCharest: Set a regular schedule of emailing subscribers. Show them WHY they should be excited about theatre.

theatre_20: training institutions that make learning the “biz” side of “show biz” as important as the art.

DaveCharest: Enable fans to spread the word.

judithsthoughts: ticket prices are a huge deal, but i also think theatre has to stop being so commercialized.

judithsthoughts: i miss the days when bdwy was full of special shows, and not disney movies made into shows.

christinequinty: recognize that the relationship between large theatre and independent theatre can be one of mutualism, not competition

DaveCharest: Use a combination of text and HTML emails. Start building connections with the audience.

judithsthoughts: when teaching its important to get everyone involved – that way kids that arent “actors’ or “singers” feel included.

DaveCharest: Make it easy for people to get involved

FacesofWayne: build a community, put a quality product on the stage, promote the high quality product within and outside the community.

christinequinty: break down the perception that theatre is, as was described to me by a prof in an academic class at UBC, a ‘bourgeois art form’

travisbedard: Stop whining about what everyone else isn’t doing. It’s not a problem – you just found your niche.

gladyssantiago: Utilize Twitter & other social media platforms for ticket giveaways. Generates buzz, great WOM

DaveCharest: Why should audiences get it? Start educating.

thenextstagemag: Separate indie theatre from classical theatre in the public’s perception. Re-brand as sexy and relevant.

rebeccacoleman: I would love a vibrant online arts hub with photos/video/blog where everyone can promote their stuff.

FilmguyWon: Theatre will never thrive unless you raise a generation of Writers of plays. Otherwise it’s just the same old stuff.

macwrites: Playwrights: write plays that you yourself would honestly set aside an evening to go out & see (even if no friends are in it).

VanMusicals: Incorporate non-traditional (colour-blind) casting whenever possible

TheatreSmart: Have talk-backs after every show!

KurtDaw: If you want to #fixtheatre you have to look at British models that drive down ticket prices and bring in new, younger audiences.

FacesofWayne: (Ottawa) The ideas here are applicable everywhere.

FacesofWayne: @TheatreSmart I am not a big fan of talkbacks. Actors are not authorities on the play. They are just performers.

nyneofuturists: here’s something to add to @thenextstagemag’s discussion about theater from yesterday: (via @TDFNYC)

Now that’s a great way to kick start a week. My admiration and thanks to all who dropped a #fixtheatre tweet, commented and re-tweeted.

Don’t hesitate to drop any more thoughts in the comments, or keep the discussion going on twitter with the #fixtheatre hash tag. The revolution will be hashed out…

Image courtesy of Flickr user Max F. Williams

Creative marketing watch – web edition


Image courtesty of Nick Keenan Artketing Inc.

When it comes to getting the brand and the message out to the people, there is no industry that has such a perfect inversely proportional equation of cash<creativity as the Independent Stage. How can we plug this equation into our marketing operations to tip this see-saw back the other way a little?

Obviously, I spend a fair bit of time among the internets, and it’s no secret that I hold the firm belief that Stage has to cozy up to the Web more and more as on-line resources continue their transition from ‘trend’ to ‘new media’ to ‘media’. So I’m always scanning like a vulture for fun and creative uses of the medium to sell live performance. Here’s a few recent samples:

  • I caught a tweet from Chicago’s Urban Theater today that pointed me to a new posting on their Vimeo page. It’s a quick clip of their Artistic Director inviting his community to come out and see their new show, Broken Thread. The production quality of the clip could be better, but it offers a direct connection to the AD himself, tells you it’s a low-cost affair and how to buy tickets. And if you follow the link to their web site, there’s more video all over it, including an interview with the playwright of the show. Simple and effective, and personal. Actually, that sounds a little familiar…
  • Another Twitter-related hit: a few weeks ago I casually answered a theatre trivia question tweeted by New York’s Playhouse 21, and within minutes they sent me back a congratulatory tweet asking me where they could send the prize. At this point I know nothing about this company (I’ll follow anybody on Twitter that claims theatre), nor that they were even offering prizes for trivia tweets. I just tripped over the question and happened to know the answer. But I sent them my address anyway and pretty much put it out of my mind. Until a week later when a package arrived from West 19th Street in NYC containing my swag: A personal letter from the company’s founder and a packaged DVD of one of their productions. How cool is that? And remarkably pro-active, the letter contained information about their upcoming projects, their budget requirements and a sponsorship request. Brassy. I don’t have any money to give them, but I can sure plug them to my online community (that’s y’all). This is a great lesson: you never know who is going to be responsible for bringing in money, so target your best-bet demo and scattershot your Social Media marketing. (Incidentally, Playhouse 21 also has one of the most unique mandates I’ve ever heard of: they adapt classic “Golden Age” television from the ’50s into theatre. Now that’s niche.)
  • This one I’m deeply in love with: New York’s MCC Theatre (yuh-huh, also on the Twitter) holds on-line auctions for memorabilia from their plays once they’re over. Right now the available items seem to be signed playbills and music and lyrics, which is cool, but as someone who has left some plays wishing I could get actions figures of the characters and playsets for those action figures, I’m thinking: how about auctioning off redundant props or costumes or set-dec after the run, and making sure everyone in the audience knows about it? I may be in the minority here, but I flip out when I see a merch table outside a theatre. Cater to nerds like me, I’ll make it worth your while.

How about you guys? Anybody seen any kick-ass Creative Marketing Solutions lately that they’d care to share?

New Van theatre blog alert…and an invitation to kick off one of your own

crows_nestWhen Vancouver is recognized as one of the top theatre cities in the world, Sabrina Evertt is going to have to accept her fair share of responsibility. After shooting out the other end of the theatre program of UVic she immediately rolled up her sleeves and went to work, producing and directing the kind of theatre that twenty-something actors and audiences eat up. Aptly, she christened her new company Twenty-Something Theatre and has been feeding us solid work since 2005.

And she ain’t stopping there. Continuing her mission to push theatre further into the city’s conciousness she has started her very own theatre blog, and from the looks of it so far it’s going to be necessary reading.

Sabrina on the future of our theatre:

So, what happens when the blue-rinse crowd that constitutes the majority of the crowds at some of our larger regional theatres (you know the ones) die off? Who will be in the audience? […] It is all well and good to think of all the wacky, crazy, creative, out-there shows that would stimulate and satisfy us as artists BUT if we aren’t connecting with our audiences at a very real & emotional level, that makes them feel like they NEED to come back again, then there really isn’t much point.

Great stuff on fundraising like the big kids:

When I first started out, fundraising was probably my least favourite part of the job but now I actually kind of enjoy it. At first it can seem daunting and awkward asking people to donate their money, time, services, etc to your production but ask you must. In my experience box office revenues account for less than %50 of your total revenue stream. So, where do you get the other 50-75% of the money to put up this beloved project of yours? From the generosity of others.

Sabrina’s also rocking the twitter; engaging with her community, live-blogging shows…I can’t tell you how much I love seeing young theatre embracing new media to get the conversation rolling. It is, simply put, necessary for our success, and will only become more so as the old media shrivels and market-produced content becomes the status quo.

Click here to read and subscribe to Sabrina’s An Unidentified Production blog

On that note, I would like to extend an open invitation to any theatre artists in the Vancouver area. If you’ve been thinking about blogging, about getting your opinions, questions and ideas out into the collective consciousness but aren’t yet sure if it’s something you’d be into, The Next Stage is always open to guest posters looking to get their feet wet. If you’ve got something you’d like to say to your town on the subject of independent theatre, drop me a line at vanstage(at)gmail(dot)com, and we’ll get into a conversation about it.

This site exists solely to promote new theatre, Vancouver, and you’re welcome in any time.

Exit Stage Left: New theatre web comedy debuts


This looks like fun. Exit Stage Left is a new web-only series out of San Fran about the Lowry Theater Company – a fictional Broadway crew led by director Ronny Simons- and their attempts to produce an as-yet-unfinished adaptation of A Wonderful World, a novel by choochy novelist-wanna-be-playwright Tim Haggard.

The first two episodes are online now, with further installments promised on the 10th and 25th of each month. It’s fully free, but they’re asking for small donations if you like what you see.

Click the banner above to check out Exit Stage Left for yourself.

Oh, and how did I hear about this? They followed me on twitter.

A few good clicks

Some points of interest for your free web time today…

jessicasmallFirst off, my delightful and unstoppable acting mentor Jessica Van der Veen (the woman responsible for the theatre obsessive in me) has leaped from the classroom to the political arena and is seeking provincial candidacy for the Oak Bay/Gordon Head area of Vancouver Island. This is the kind of woman you want in your corner, believe me. Her Guiding Principle:

Everyone deserves a fair shot at life, no matter what their background, income or situation.

I choose to run provincially because I value stewardship of public lands and resources and universality of public healthcare, education and social services.

It’s hard to argue with her platform. Check it out at her official candidacy site here. I’m such a proud little acting class nerd.

Next up: Vancouver theatre is all a-Twitter, as they say. Now, I’m not going to go into a twitter sales-pitch here (smarter people than me can handle that), I know it sounds like a strange and vaguely useless idea right now – kinda like Facebook used to sound like once upon a time – all I’ll say is that when The Electric Company climbs on board, something’s happening. You can follow them over here. And if you’d like to jump into a conversation pool with theatrists all over the planet, I’ve got your swimming hole right here. Follow your brains out.

You’ll want to get to know Kris, for sure, a more entertaining twitterer you’ll not find. And Rebecca. And Lois. Trilby for sure. And these guys. Definitely Deb. Maybe this nerd. And Travis. Tell me when to stop…

And I’ve had no time to jump into any comment forums lately, but if I did I’d be all over this discussion of meaning in our work, and the idea of opening it up to our audience in talkbacks. A post is coming on the subject here, for sure, in the meantime I highly recommend starting here, moving on over here, and finishing up over here. This is the kind of conversation that the theatrosphere was invented for. Great stuff.

I am now officially late for work. Until next time…