Why a box office should be a bit like private school.

Ok, readers.  This is your official rant alert, so look out.  Ready?  Set?   Here goes . . .

I went to pick up four tickets to a big budget Broadway show recently that cost me about $500 buckaroos.

I approached that big scary glass partition (that I’ve blogged about before), and out popped a box office rep ready to serve me.  And serve me they did . . . wearing a well-worn sweatshirt and jeans, like they were working behind the counter at a Dairy Queen, not a Broadway box office.

Can you name me another industry that is trying to sell consumers a product priced over $100/each, with the average sale probably around $500,  that would let their front line sales reps wear a sweatshirt and jeans?  They have dress codes at The Gap, for G-D’s sake, why can’t we?

Maybe this was a fluke, as certainly not all box offices in town dress this way.  There are plenty of suit and tie BOs out there.    But frankly, this wasn’t the first time I’ve seen “dress down day” at a show, so I felt compelled to say/write something.

If you expect a customer to shell out megabucks for your product, you should dress to impress.  That’s sales training 101.  In fact, that’s sales training wheels 101.

And if you don’t want to make your employees have to figure out what to wear, then put them in a uniform, even if that’s just the same type of t-shirt.

It’s just respectful, especially when engaging in high-priced business transactions (or even when you just want them to buy an $15 Gap T-Shirt).

And treating our customers with respect is the best way to get them to “pay” their respects as well.

 

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Five things theater can learn from the World Cup.

Well, it took twenty years, but “football” has finally tipped in the US. I remember when my female cousin from Norway had to fight for a chance to try out for our high school soccer team.  They didn’t even have a women’s team!  (BTW, not only did she make the team, but she made the starting line-up, and scored more times than Tiger Woods at a “Golfers Who Love To Text Strippers” convention.)

Times have changed, and the number of people in New York City wearing soccer jerseys these days certainly proves it.  We’ve all got World Cup fever.

Now, how can we make that fever contagious and help spread a similar fanaticism about theater?  Here are five things theater can learn from the World Cup.

1.  NEW AUDIENCES CAN BE FOUND

People said soccer/football would never be big in this country.  It took time, but a whole bunch of people who have never watched competitive soccer are watching now.  And I guarantee they’ll watch more in the future.  While we will always need to satisfy our core audience first, we can’t ignore outreach efforts for new audiences.  They are out there.  We have to be persistent.  We have to be creative.  And we have to be accessible.

2.  PARTICIPATION IS THE KEY TO LONG-TERM GROWTH

Do you think it’s a coincidence that 25 years ago there was no girls’ team in my hometown, and no one gave a crap that Argentina beat Germany in a 3-2 squeaker?  Soccer became a bigger part of American life just a couple of decades ago . . . and now those kids are grown up, and are loving watching what they participated in.  The arts are no different.  If it were mandatory that every kid out there performed in at least one play during their high school career (and I’m not saying that it should be), Broadway would have a bigger fan base.  Today’s participants are tomorrow’s audience.

3.  GIVE ‘EM SOMEBODY TO ROOT FOR

A friend of mine is 1/4 Spanish, but you’d never know it.  If you saw him coming down the street, you’d think he was cut out of a Gap ad, the guy is so ‘American’ looking.  But somewhere along his genetic journey, he got a little Spanish blood in his system.  Well, ever since Spain started making a run at the Cup, he’s been touting that Spanish blood like he’s a direct descendant of Don Quixote!  He bought jerseys, set up viewing parties, and more.  And he doesn’t even speak the language or like the food!  When publicizing your shows, make sure you take advantage of where your cast, crew, and creatives are from, and what they do. Give the audience a way to feel connected to each person involved with your production, and they’ll passionately support your product.

4.  LESS OFTEN IS MORE EXCITING

There’s nothing like a little scarcity to make people more excited when your event rolls around.  The World Cup is only every four years.  It’s so special that people are giving up many other entertainment opportunities to make sure they don’t miss each GOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLLL!  In fact, this may be the first year the World Cup has had a negative effect on Broadway ticket sales.  (We slump during other major sporting events like the Super Bowl – you don’t think this took a bite out of some biz this year?)  So maybe your show doesn’t have to do 8 shows a week.  Maybe scheduling is like a good juicy steak:  the more rare it is, the more your audience will be drooling for it.

5.  EVERYONE LOVES A COMPETITION

We’ve been watching competitions since the beginning of time.  I bet even Adam and Eve bet on the snake races.  There’s something about watching one team go up against another.  It’s why competitive sports, board games (and war), bring out such enthusiasm and pride with both players and audiences.  Shows don’t go head-to-head in the same way that sports teams do (no one has taken me up on this idea yet) but there has to be a way to make it seem like we do.  Ask yourself what would make your audience paint their face for you.

I’m no Pollyanna.  I don’t believe theater will ever compete with major competitive sports (except maybe Championship Chess Boxing or Wife Carrying).  But there is something we can learn from how they have increased their dominance on the attention span of the world.

And maybe, just maybe, 25 years from now, my kid will say, “remember when high schools didn’t have a Broadway team?”

Who will be Broadway’s Next Big Star? The “Final 15” Announced.

When we came up with the idea for BroadwaySpace.com’s “Broadway’s Next Big Star” contest, we knew we’d get some submissions from a few talented performers . . . but we had no idea we’d get THAT many!

Several hundred performers and performers-to-be from around the world (yep, there was even an entry from Estonia), submitted videos of themselves doing something “Broadway” (singing, dancing, or making a mash-up) in the hopes of winning the grand prize of getting flown to NYC, doing dinner and a show, and getting an audition with a hot-shot NYC casting director.

Somehow, Craig Burns from Telsey Casting, Bailey Hanks from Who-Doesn’t-Love-Them-Some-Bailey-Hanks, and I, narrowed the hundreds of entries down to 13 finalists. Add to that the two wild card spots we gave away to the two most-viewed videos, and that makes  . . . The Final 15!

Check them out here (and check out the honorable mention/superlatives while you’re at it)!

When you’ve watched them all, vote for your favorite by 11:59 PM ET on Wed. April 7th!  We’ve already had thousands of votes pour in since the first day the voting was announced, so it’s gonna be a close one.  Your vote will count big time.

As I watched all of the entries, I couldn’t help but notice a few things that I thought deserved some special attention.  So, I’m giving out some pre-award awards right here and now.

1.  The “Holy Crap, High School Musicals Have Come A Long Way” Award

Check out the three camera shoot in Audrey Peeples’s “Gimme, Gimme”.  And listen to those tracks.  And is it just me, or is the costume actually period?  (For my high school production of Anything Goes, I wore khakis from The Gap circa 1988).  Man, it’s no wonder that Broadway audiences demand a lot from their $125.  Look at what they are getting in their local high schools!  I’ve heard rumors lately of high schools with bigger musical budgets than some Off-Broadway shows!

2.  The “You Got To Work With Whom?” Award

When I was a Broadway-wannabe, the closest I could get to the stars was hanging out at the stage door and hoping to get a glimpse (I once asked 12-year-old Daisy Eagan for an autograph . . . our paths haven’t crossed since, but I’m sure they will someday, and boy will my face be red).  Now, the incredible generosity of so many Broadway performers, combined with the many schools and classes in the city and around the country (Like Laura Bell Bundy and Paul Canaan’s Take It From The Top) , give young performers a chance to learn from the best.  Check out Final 15er, Nicholas J. Oliveri, as his sings for the original “Gimme, Gimm-er,” Sutton Foster.  And stay tuned to the very end, so you can hear Sutton compliment Nicholas and crack up the class.

3.  The “Golden Age is Over” Award

This goes out to all of the finalists.  Of the 15 songs sung by the finalists, only 4 were from musicals written before 1980 .  And only 2 of those were written before 1970.  These performers are not only the actors of tomorrow, they are also the audiences of tomorrow. And the days of our audiences wanting to see The King and I and Pal Joey and Fiddler are over.

4.  The “How to Stand Out in the Clutter” Award

And last, but not least, Stewart Yu gets a nod, not for making it into the Final 15, but for knowing he wasn’t going to make it into the Final 15, and creating a video that will probably get him more views than many of the finalists!  Stewart knows the rule by which we all must live: creativity cuts through clutter.  I’ve pasted his video below.

Good luck to all of the finalists!

See them all here (and don’t forget the honorable mentions at the bottom).  Make sure to cast your vote by Wed at 11:59!

And enjoy Stu!

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