Quick Announcement re: our Fall Conference and a Favor . . .

Hey all . . . a quick announcement about our fourth annual TheaterMaker Super Conference . . .

First, rest assured, it’s still happening (on November 14th and 15th to be exact).

Second, like most live events in 2020, we’re going virtual.

I was initially disappointed when I had to make this decision, but I quickly realized how many benefits there were from holding a virtual theater conference.

Most significantly, a virtual conference will make it easier to unite TheaterMakers all over the world without you having to spend any time or dollars on travel.  And we’ll be able to bring you speakers from everywhere as well.

Since we’re still designing and planning the event (and since this is our first virtual event), I need to ask you a favor. I have two questions for you that will take two minutes, and will help in how we structure and curate the event.  Can you help us out?

You can answer the questions here.

Thank you in advance and stay tuned to this space for the announcement of the conference details.

In Tech (and in Life), Time is like Toothpaste.

I’m in a hotel room as I type this.  And I just finished a sweet caesar salad with chicken that left me fully satiated . . . and with some breath that could kill a whole bouquet of roses.

So I went to brushy-brushy-brushy (as Elmo sings to my daughter every night), grabbed my toothpaste, and noticed that I was just about down to the end of the tube.  I crinkled the tube some more, pressed out the corners and squeeeeeeeeezed with all my might to get a few more drops onto my brush.  “Come on,” I urged the tube, “I gotta kill this Caesar!”

I eventually got a little dollop to pop out but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still have a little anchovy aftertaste right now.

You’ve been there before, right?  With toothpaste, or hand soap (ever put more water in the bottle to extend its life?), etc.

Now flash back to when you opened that tube of toothpaste . . . or that bottle of soap . . . you didn’t think even think about it coming to an end, now did you?  You probably over-pasted, or let some spill, and didn’t give two dollops.

But eventually, your tube did run out.  It always does.  And then you found yourself with less than what you needed to do the job right.

The same is true with time.

And I find my “toothpaste theory” is never more evident than in tech.

Tech is the most expensive and arguably most important time in a show’s run-up to a Broadway opening.  It’s where all the elements come together.  It’s when there are more people getting paid than ever before.

And you only have a fixed period of time before the tech ends, and the performances must begin.

And at the beginning of tech, everyone spends a little more time on things than they should. And then, as the first preview gets closer . . . and you start to approach the end of the “toothpaste tube of time,” things get more tense, as you’re trying to squeeze every last second of time out of your tech rehearsals to give that first audience the best show possible.  “If only we had another day,” is probably the most commonly heard expression in tech.  Well, second most common to, “Oh @#$%!”

So . . . it’s important to go into tech remembering that the toothpaste at the beginning of the tube is just as valuable at the end. Do that and you’ll find yourself with a better show for that first audience, which will result in better word of mouth, and so on, and so on.

Oh, and, by the way, this toothpaste theory works for life too.  No matter what age we are, we all think there is plenty of time to do all the things we dream about doing, from writing a play to having kids to taking that vacation to that one place we’re dying to see.

But, the fact is, life is short.  And you don’t want to find yourself at the end of your own toothpaste tube trying to squeeze a few more years out.  Because you can’t.

So go out there and do something you want to do today.

– – – – –

Want to start working on that script of yours that is in your head but not yet on a page?  Take our free 30 Day Script Challenge . . . and get it on paper in 30 days, guaranteed.

Want a job in the theater? Join our TheaterMakers Studio Production Team Database!

The theater is a collaborative art form.  Even one-person shows can’t be done on their own.  (At the very least, you need at least one person in your audience!)

The cool thing about meeting the right collaborator is that your energy to make something happen doubles, triples, and increases exponentially with each person you add.  And then one day, you’ll find yourself sitting in a Broadway theater teching your show, looking around at the hundred people working on it with you. . . and remembering when it was just you, in your room, with an idea (yes, I’ve had this moment several times).

This is why we encourage TheaterMakers to meet other TheaterMakers and get them signed up on their show, or simply just meet for coffee and brainstorm!

And, believe it or not, one of the most common questions I get asked is . . . “Ken, where can I find a Director/Designer/Composer/Orchestrator/Actor, etc.”  Shocking, right?  Because we all know how many people are desperately looking to work as a Director/Designer/Composer/Orchestrator/Actor, etc.

That’s why we’ve started a TheaterMaker Production Team Database . . . so when you need someone for your show . . . or if you’re a TheaterMaker looking for a job on a show . . . you know where to look.

Post your profile if you’re a Director of plays or a Choreographer of musicals.  Or a Writer, Investor, Designer or whatever.

Search through the profiles if you’re looking for any of the above, or are just looking to meet someone who shares the same passion of making shows as you do, and see what you can cook up together.

Whatever you’re looking for, it’s in our brand new, free TheaterMaker Database. And it’s now open for your submission and browsing pleasure!

Click here to check it out and create your free profile now.

And do it now.

Ask yourself.  What do you have to lose by signing up?  And putting yourself out there?

Only a possible collaboration that could take you exactly where you want to go.

It takes 30 seconds.  Sign up and start working (with someone else) today.

Sign up for the TheaterMaker Production Database here.

 

Theaters Aren’t The Only Place To Do Theatre Anymore

My first experience with “site-specific” theatre was in 1995 with a little musical called J.P. Morgan Saves The Nation, written by a then-unknown composer/lyricist named Jonathan Larson (the NY Times called his score “peppy”).  It took place on the steps of Federal Hall downtown.

But this blog isn’t about site-specific theatre.

While I do think we’re on the verge of seeing plays and musicals pop up in office buildings, bars, shopping malls, and everyplace else in the next few years (thanks to the high cost of actual theaters, not to mention the lack of availability), site-specific theatre is so 1995.

In the past week, a few blips have appeared on my trend-spotting sonar that make me think we’re on the verge of another kind of revolution.  And this one, surprise surprise, has all to do with technology.

First, I can’t help but notice that Netflix has taken a more aggressive approach to capturing theatrical content as of late and not just the big branded Springsteen-like shows.  They shot a movie version of American Son.  They announced a movie version of that Cinderella story of a musical, The Prom.  And now, the Off-Broadway one-woman show, Douglas, will be the latest addition to their growing theatrical portfolio.

Second, (spoiler alert!) but I spend a lot of time on my upcoming podcast with Tony Nominated art-trepreneur Paul Gordon (airs this coming Monday) talking about his StreamingMusicals platform, which is off to a strong start (and got him a licensing deal for a new musical that has never played NYC).  I expect the next generation of theatre-makers is going to see this approach as a way to get their shows into the world at a fraction of the cost that typically comes with putting up an actual production.  (And speaking of streaming, we just got a report on my own production of Daddy Long Legs from my friends at  BroadwayHD, and it’s exceeding expectations in the number of views.  Check it out here.)

Third, I caught a glimpse of an ad on a subway platform the other day for a new digital platform called STAGE, which states, “From classic performances to edgy icons and undiscovered gems, musical theatre and performance is the cornerstone of STAGE.”  What’s interesting about this isn’t the network itself, but the ad . . . which ain’t cheap.  That says to me that STAGE ain’t effin’ around.  They see a big future in the platform and are betting on it.

And fourth (because you know, everything comes in threes, so when there are four things, you definitely have a fourk-ing trend), and perhaps most interesting of all . . . a new podcast musical was released this week, called Next Thing You Know by Joshua Salzman and Ryan Cunningham, starring Patti Murin, Colin Hanlon, Jay Armstrong Johnson and Lauren Blackman.  This on the heels of the high profile John Cameron Mitchell podcast musical “Anthem: Homunculus,” starring Patti Lupone to name a few (because she counts as a few).  Instead of readings and workshops, these creators have turned to tech to get attention for their new works.  (I wonder if critics will start reviewing them?)

All of this makes me think . . . are streaming and podcast recordings the new “concept recording,” made famous by Andrew Lloyd Webber with Jesus Christ Superstar? We all know how that worked out.  Answer?  Yes, yes they are.

And all of this points to one thing:  an uprising is underfoot.

The modern-day creators, who are part of the DIY generation, who grew up able to create and distribute their films and music without gatekeepers, are now finding ways to distribute theatre in the same way.

And we’re just at the beginning of it.

If you’re a theatre-maker, you should start to imagine other ways to get your shows the attention they deserve.

Because over the next ten years, the traditional walls of Broadway and Off-Broadway are going to come crumbling down as the next generation of creators continue to think outside of the . . . box theater.

– – – – –

Do check out Daddy Long Legs on BroadwayHD, and then guess how much it cost me to shoot something that high of a quality.  And then imagine how you can do it for your show . . .

GUEST BLOG by Sara Fitzpatrick: 5 ways to make sure you’re ACTUALLY connecting with your audience online

The Internet is the child of Al Gore and that’s why we capitalize it like a first and last name.

The Internet is the end.

The Internet is the beginning.

The Internet has made virtual space more valuable than physical space.

The Internet is___________.

All these statements about The Internet are equally true… including the blank statement. So if The Internet is and is not all of these things, how do you use it as an effective marketing tool? This has become an increasingly important question as the days of treating digital as an afterthought are gone. The Internet is constantly evolving, but here are some approaches I’ve discovered from my fifteen years of digital marketing to make sure I’m actually connecting with an audience online.

1. Exercise empathy

If you’ve ever secretly wanted to be an actor, here’s your opportunity to get method.

Start looking at things from the audience’s point of view. The days of big brands shaming people into buying a lifestyle are gone. Now, it’s about welcoming them into your brand world and engaging them in a dialogue. This is not to suggest people will ever stop buying things out of a place of deep shame, that will never get old for some of us! But thinking that people want to hear a monologue about a brand from a rigid entity is outdated and ineffective. Modern marketing engages your audience in a conversation where they feel welcomed into your brand world.

So, if your marketing strategy is based on a dialogue, you need to define your voice. But how do you do that?

2. Create and abide by your brand guide

Your show is meant for somebody and the better you can figure out who that person is, the more effectively you can reach them.

What does your show’s brand pyramid look like?
What are its key attributes?
Who are your competitors?
What are your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
What does the consumer look like for your show?
What are the visuals, tone and creative that will best convey your brand message to your most likely consumer?

When you’re able to clearly abide by that brand voice you can generate tailored, high-quality materials. The digital space may be a person’s first touch point for your brand, so pay attention to what you’re saying. The quality of your content online is more important NOW more than ever, which leads us to the next guideline–

3. Weight quality over quantity

Your brand voice in the conversation will come through in the content you create. Be thoughtful; it’s easy to understand why consumers are increasingly wary of anything online. Create quality content you stand behind. Once you’ve created this content, you need to be strategic about where it goes.

Advertising is not always content and content is not necessarily advertising. What’s impactful in print may equally fall flat on a smartphone. The time and effort spent creating content that tells us what your brand voice is will be wasted unless you’re also smart about where it’s being heard. Different advertising and social media platforms have taken on distinct personalities; personalities you need to consider for your messaging.

Additionally, it’s important to remember that even if someone isn’t “following” you, it doesn’t mean they’re not engaged. Consumers are using social media as a research tool for brands instead of blindly following them—which is another reason your brand voice needs to be consistent and true. A new user is as likely to see your Instagram post as a loyal fan. “Followers” don’t carry the same amount of weight as they used to because they don’t necessarily translate to popularity or customers and vice versa. And speaking of followers….

4. Beware of fake news

Bots and followers leave everyone with that uncanny valley feeling: looking at a face that appears human but isn’t actually a flesh-and-bone human being. It’s a vile and insidious feeling. You’re unable to trust that anyone is who…or even what they say they are. I feel horrible even talking about it, I need to go buy something.

Buying followers and utilizing bots is a big example of putting quantity or quality… or quantity over reality. We don’t buy bots and I would never recommend it to anyone. Not only because it’s an ethically grey area, but because it’s not actually helpful in gathering insights for your brand. It really has more to do with how the audience is reacting to your product. How is the audience growing? What are the elements of your marketing matrix that drive traction and interaction? What are the messages that spark the most engagement? Fake follower data isn’t going to help you with that.

And alongside bots, the last important trap to avoid in your path to becoming the Beyoncé of branding-

5. Just because your friends are jumping off the bridge…

Just because everyone is buying New York Times triple trucks in July, doesn’t mean you should too. ALWAYS consider your brand voice and be loyal to it. Like your savvy customers, you can see what the competition is doing as research, but that doesn’t mean you should blindly follow and do the same thing.

– – – – –

Sara Fitzpatrick is the Founder and President of ARTHOUSE, a full-service media agency that partners with forward-thinking web advertisers in the strategy and design of innovative brand campaigns. Their services include branding, content creation, social management and media buying with a focus on how creative drives campaign success.

You can hear her podcast interview with Ken here.

Ken Davenport
Ken Davenport

Tony Award-Winning Broadway Producer

I'm on a mission to help 5000 shows get produced by 2025.

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