If there is such a thing as a book club . . . then why not . . .

Yep.  Finish it with me . . .

Why not a play club . . . or a musical club.  Right?

My mission as a theater professional is to amplify the conversation about the theater.  More people talking about it gets more people interested, which gets more people going, which gets more people telling their children about it . . . and repeat cycle.

Yesterday, WOMMA helped remind us that a good chunk of the precious resource known as word-of-mouth occurs offline.  So, our challenge in promoting our products/shows and the theater in general is to find ways for our customers to have these conversations.

Hence the idea of a Play Club . . . or a Musical Club.

It’s simple really.  7 easy steps.  Ready?

  1. Declare yourself the organizer.
  2. Invite friends . . .  1, 2, 10, doesn’t matter . . .  to your place to discuss a play/musical/cast recording of your choice (bonus if it is running on Broadway now)
  3. Have food, drinks . . . especially the liquor-ish kind.
  4. Discuss the play/musical/cast recording.  Read some scenes/sing some songs aloud.
  5. At end of night pick next play/musical/cast recording and set next day/time to discuss (best to make it the same time every week/month)
  6. Congratulate yourself, because you just helped create WOM.
  7. Repeat from the beginning.

Seriously, these clubs should be all over creation, especially in cities and counties that are far away from the Broadway.  This is a way for you to keep in touch with what’s going on here (and regional theaters and touring houses that are trying to teach their audiences to keep current – this is a fun, low cost way of doing just that).

So start one today.  You’ll be helping the theater tomorrow.

(Need a better guide to starting a club? Check out Oprah’s guide on how to start a book club and just replace book for play, musical, cast recording, or whatever you’d like!)

 

Got a comment?  I love ’em, so comment below!  Email subscribers, click here, then scroll down, to say what’s on your mind!)

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Comments
  • Donald says:

    Ken,
    There’s a well-established playreading group in Brooklyn on Meet-up. The seem to be really well organized and a good model for other groups. http://www.meetup.com/The-Brooklyn-Play-Reading-Group/

  • W. Squier says:

    Ken,
    Actually, I’ve been leading a series of book groups where we read the source material for some of Broadway’s classic musicals. Just did one about a month ago where we read Tevye and his Daughters and then discussed how it became Fiddler on the Roof while reading scenes and listening to the original cast album. It’s been a lot of fun and of interest to people not directly connected to the theater!

  • Patrice says:

    Ken,
    While the idea is excellent (and fun!), I think you miss an important distinction between book clubs and event-attending groups: how much things cost. Book clubs are incredibly cheap to run: space is easily donated (someone’s living room or maybe a bar backroom during a low-attended happy hour) and books cost little to nothing (remember libraries?).
    Show-going groups have the economic barrier of ticket prices keeping them, at least on the Broadway and Off-Broadway levels, from operating as frequently as a book club (and typically the less frequently or consistently something meets, the less likely it is to stay healthy in terms of membership levels and output). While many of us would *love* to see a show once a week or twice a month, it is simply not economically feasible as many of us that invested in the arts are likely to be living in NYC (expensive) and working in the arts (not much if any money being made).
    If show-going-clubs are being formed, I would urge them to look beyond the big shows and reach out to the independent, off-off and visiting companies. Most of us would welcome a large group and would be happy to offer discounts if it meant 10 to 20 guaranteed audience members.
    One more snag to think about: It is much easier to sit and talk about a book in chunks – chapters 1 through 5 this Thursday, chapters 5 through 10 next. Theater has to be taken in at once and the discussion that follows will encompass the entire experience. This can be time-consuming and the question of space arises (bars and restaurants are easy fixes but does everyone in your group drink? is the space really conducive to a conversation? is this an extra financial burden?). Again though, reaching out to companies may give rise to built in q and a sessions or the organizing through the companies with local businesses for continued conversations.
    If you are going to broach a concept, best cover your bases and encourage some stimulation of all levels and niches of theater in this city.

  • On the nonprofit and regional theatre end, this is the perfect tool for arts organizations to market a show or season and in turn getting patrons and audience members engaged and involved. Genius!
    http://artsmanager.blogspot.com/2011/11/start-play-club-or-musical-club-today.html

  • Actually, Patrice, I wasn’t advocating a “show seeing” club, I was advocating a reading club . . . just instead of books, it was plays, musicals or even a listening club of cast recordings! That alone will get more people talking and will cost the same as a book club.
    Kudos for you for suggesting that people experience other types of theatre!

  • My dad, who never seemed into theater, somehow hosted several play reading groups where the guests all read a Neil Simon play out loud.

  • Sue says:

    In New Brunswick, NJ, the George Street Playhouse will coordinate book club discussions with performances. Last year they did it with The Subject Was Roses. This year it will be Red.
    http://www.georgestreetplayhouse.org/theatrepackage/bookclubpackage

  • Hi Ken,
    I’m so glad that someone passed your blog on to me via twitter – I run the Art & Soul Acting Book Club for Actors’!
    I started the book club as part of my acting studio knowing that having a strong foundation of knowing plays and playwrights gives actors the leading edge in every way. And also, because it is so challenging to stay up on all of the newest plays and playwrights while continuing to be well read and knowledgeable about less contemporary writers and classics.
    Approximately every 6 weeks I choose a new playwright and post a list of plays to read. Participants read as many as they can within the period and I offer two different meetings…usually over yummy food. I also supplement each meeting with research that I have done on the plays and playwright. I’m currently on my 8th playwright and regular participants have read close to 60 plays at this point!
    For anyone who world like to join: http://artandsoulacting.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=49&Itemid=66
    Thanks again for your valuable post!
    Rhonda Musak

  • Evan says:

    I’m 14, and even within my group of friends who are the theatre kids at my high school, i’m the theatre hipster, so they’ve named me. I talk about everything on broadway, off-broadway, and lots of things that have closed recently or decades ago ,or things to come. It always makes me smile when I educate them about Broadway 🙂

  • Kaitlyn says:

    That sounds like the best idea EVER! I’ve been wanting to read more plays anyways. What a fantastic idea!

  • Ken,
    As part of my potential marketing strategies for the all-volunteer run regional performing arts magazine KC Stage, I tried to create a ‘play-watching’ club (KC Stage Live!) – even going as far as offering discounts and going to free productions – and even including the potential for a talk back with people in the show. However, no attendance at any of them so far.
    I’ve thought about your idea, but am debating if I’d get any reaction as a result of the lack of attendance on the others.

  • Bryan David says:

    Dear Mr. Davenport, et al:
    W.O.W.-INDEED & ACT: I have had a ‘Reading’ and a discussion group of Actors at my home once a month for the past year. As I am a Playwright & Lyricist I ask that they read and listen to the ‘Demos’ of my collaborator’s & my /our words that we have written/recorded. I find the Q & A period at the end of each ‘Read-through’ to be VERY helpful to me as both a Playwright & Lyricist. When asked questions like, “Is there something thing going on, on the DL in this couple’s relationship? If it’s not clear to the Actors, then I need re-write. Their questions usually tell me what ‘scene’ needs to be, ‘flushed-out.’
    When I hear, “Gee I wish this character had a solo right about here.” (When it’s not the ego of the Actor) who knows I may add one. My ‘Actor-Friends’ all know when this and/or any of the other Fourteen (yes 14) musicals ‘go-up’ they will be told where the auditions will be held. I am NOT the Casting Director. (There you’re on you r own kid!) But I do consider it. If it helps and will carry the story forward; my collaborator & I/we will tackle it.
    It’s a very important step for us and I believe that it will cut the ‘workshop-time’ in half. I have done this in advance. You asked me to send you, ‘my best work’ so I did. It is currently under the consideration of you ‘right-hand-person’ Ms. Caplow.
    Food for thought: I could keep you busy for years to come if only in workshops alone; with the ‘pick-of-the-litter’ running Off-Broadway and then Broadway when you feel that they are ready. In case you may have the slightest doubt of one man having this/that many works; I remind those that will listen of one,
    Mr. Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde. Yes, is the answer to the question you may have been wondering? YES I have written a Two-Act musical about him as well.
    Starting with my 1st submission (replete with 18 demos 10/on MySpace) they are; as of today…
    The (Current) List of My Works:
    1) “Whitechapel” ©
    The Life & Times of: ‘Jack The Ripper’ A Musical Love Story! ™
    http://www.myspace.com/jacktheripperwhitechapel1888
    © Copyright 1996/2007 Bryan David/Brandon Kress
    All Rights Reserved
    2) “Wilde About Me” ©
    The Life, Loves & Lawsuits of: Oscar Wilde! ™
    http://www.myspace.com/wildaboutme05
    © Copyright 2010 Bryan David/Brandon Kress All Rights Reserved
    3) “Christmas Dreams & Holiday Wishes” ©
    And the Christmas Fairy Too! ™
    © Copyright 1999 Bryan David All Rights Reserved
    4) “The Island of Lost & Found” ©
    (The Black Hole) ™
    © Copyright 2010 Bryan David All Rights Reserved
    5) “The Dorr Family” ©
    (Closed & Locked)
    ‘A Tragedy of Hope
    In Two-Acts’ ™
    © Copyright 2010 Bryan David All Rights Reserved
    6) “Public Relations” ©
    (A Musical Sensation!) ™
    © Copyright 2010 Bryan David All Rights Reserved
    7) “Furnished Room” ©
    The Musical!
    © Copyright 2010 Bryan David All Rights Reserved
    8) “Hotel-Hotel” ©
    Grand It’s Not! ™
    © Copyright 1999 Bryan David All Rights Reserved
    9) “A Novel Idea” ©
    When Typed! ™
    © Copyright 2010 Bryan David All Rights Reserved
    10) “Behind The Bar” ©
    The Jailhell Musical! ™
    © Copyright 2010 Bryan David All Rights Reserved
    11) “Harvest of Hate” ©
    The Reaping! ™
    © Copyright 2010 Bryan David All Rights Reserved
    12) “Odd Man In” ©
    Alpha Dog! ™
    © Copyright 2010 Bryan David All Rights Reserved
    13) “Olga & Kriss” ©
    From Prussia with Hate! ™
    © Copyright 2010 Bryan David All Rights Reserved
    14) “Flying High” ©
    ‘Winging It!’ ™
    © Copyright 1991
    Bryan David, Pamela Lane,
    and
    Freddie Jordan
    All Rights Reserved
    Options & Inquires:
    Thomas P. Lane, Esq.
    tlane@winston.com
    Winston & Strawn LLP
    200 Park Ave # 4511
    New York, NY 10166-4500

  • Angela Astle says:

    Hi Ken!
    We started a play reading club at Aurora Fox Arts Center just a few months before reading this post. We have about 10 members that attend regularly and a few more that drop in when they can. We read about 3 scripts a month to discuss at the next month’s meeting. This has been a great way to get patrons involved in the play selection process for the theatre–they are our advisory board in a way because they are the ones buying the tickets. I highly recommend it and would be glad to share details with others who are interested.

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