Let the truth spark your original story.

Creating original works, whether they are screenplays, sonnets or shows, is incredibly difficult.  This is one of the reasons why 64% of the productions on Broadway over the last 30 years have been adaptations (Another reason?  People want them more than you think).

Often I get what I think are great ideas for new productions.  Maybe I’ve imagined a setting or a storyline that I think would translate well to the stage.

But then what?  Either I have to put my fingers to the keyboard and crank the sucker out, or I have to commission a writer to take my idea and spin it into gold.

Once you get going, the writing comes easier.  An object in motion tends to stay in motion, and one at rest . . . well, you know the physics.

But how do you start a totally original idea that is entirely made up?

Start with something that isn’t made up.

I always look for some specific kernel of truth to inspire me or my writers to start the story.  If I’m working on a show that takes place in a small town in New Jersey, I’ll find a small town in New Jersey, take a Zip Car across the bridge and spend a day there, soaking up the specifics about that town.  If I’m working on a show that is about a duck hunter, you can bet I’m going to track down an actual duck hunter and hang out with him or her for a day or two.  If I’m doing a show about medieval times, you can bet I’m going to go back in time and . . . ok, maybe I’ll read about the middle ages instead.

Some people call this research. I call it The Story Spark Plug.

Just a little bit of truth . . . just a little bit of non-fiction . . . can beget the best original stories around.

Need an example?

Sunday night Mark Boal won the Academy Award for Best ORIGINAL Screenplay for his movie, The Hurt Locker, which is about a United States Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal team during the Iraq War.

Before writing the movie, Mark was a freelance journalist who was embedded with a bomb squad.

Huh.  I wonder where he first heard the phrase, “the hurt locker.”

Overheard at Angus: Volume VI.

It’s been a while since I’ve taken you all on a trip to Angus to hear what’s being gossiped over lunch or pre-theater din-din.

The last time I was having my usual burger, my dining partner and I heard this little gem of a conversation being bandied about over a couple of brandies.  Knowing (as you do) my affinity for focus groups and research, I think you’ll see why I felt I had to pass it on to all of you.

Brandy Drinker #1:  I just did a focus group for one of my shows.  Learned some great stuff.

Brandy Drinker #2:  I just did one, too.

Brandy Drinker #1:  Oh yeah?  Which company did you use to run them?

Brandy Drinker #2:  I did them myself.

Brandy Drinker #1:  You what?  How’d you do that?

Brandy Drinker #2:  Simple.  I have a 15-year-old daughter.  I took her and ten of her 15-year-old friends out to dinner.  I told them about the show that I was doing, and then I asked, “Would you stamp your feet until your parents took you to see it?”

Brandy Drinker #1:  What did they say?

Brandy Drinker #2:  They said they wouldn’t stamp their feet.

Brandy Drinker #1:  Oh.  That’s too bad.

Brandy Drinker #2:  Not really.  They said they would tell their parents that they hated them unless they got them tickets.

Brandy Drinker #1:  Next round is on you.

Do tourists like matinees perfs? Do city residents like Tuesday eves? Results of study revealed.

Our friends at Telecharge, led by the Swami himself, recently completed a very detailed study of our audience and their favorite performance times.  In the words of TCharge, the objective of the study was as follows:

“We decided to see if there were significant differences in the geographical breakdown of customers by performance, using sales data from Telecharge.com Broadway shows for performances between August 31, 2009 and January 3, 2010.”

In other words, does a Manhattanite want to go to a show on a weekday or a weekend?  What about your Aunt Sally who comes in from the Shore?  And what about the family of four from New Mexico who comes in for Christmas?

Here is what Telecharge found out, and there are a few surprises:

SUMMARY

 

·
Tourists
are less likely to buy matinees than evenings.

·
Suburban
theatergoers prefer matinees over evenings. 

·
People
who live in Manhattan prefer Tuesday over Friday or Saturday night.  

·        People who live in Manhattan prefer Thursday performances over ANY other night.

·
More
tourists attend the theatre on Thursday evening than on Wednesday.

DETAILED RESULTS

·
Tourists
(customers from outside the tri-state area) are less likely to buy matinees
than evening performances. 

o    The matinees all have
a below average percentage of sales from tourists

§  The overall average
for all performances was 51%, with the lowest percentage at 41% and the highest
at 66%. 

o    The percentage of
tourists buying for Wednesday matinees was 44%. 

o    Sunday matinee was
the performance with the lowest percentage of tourists at 41%, followed by
Wednesday matinee, then Saturday matinee at 48%. 

o    There are more orders
from tourists for Friday night than Saturday night; the performance with the
next largest number of orders from tourists is Saturday matinee followed by a
big drop to Tuesday, then Thursday evening, Sunday matinee, and then Wednesday
night. 

o    The performance with
the highest percentage of tourists is Sunday evening at 66% followed by Monday
evening at 65%; however, there are more tourists seeing a show on Monday night
than Sunday night.  Friday evening is next at 57% while Saturday night is
55%.

·
Suburban
buyers prefer matinees.  There are more people from the suburbs seeing
theatre on a Saturday or Sunday matinee than there are seeing a show on Friday
or Saturday night. 

o    There are more people
from the suburbs seeing a show on Wednesday afternoon than there are for any
evening performance, including Friday and Saturday night.

o    The performance with
the most orders from the suburbs is Saturday matinee followed by Sunday
matinee, then Wednesday matinee, Saturday evening, and Friday evening.

·
Tuesdays
at 7

o    There are more orders
from tourists for Tuesday night than for Thursday evenings or Sunday matinees.

o    There are more orders
from people living in Manhattan for Tuesday night than for Friday or Saturday
night.

·
Manhattan
buyers.  Tuesday is the second most popular performance of the week for
people from Manhattan, after Thursday.  Friday night is third, then
Saturday, and Wednesday night.  The weekend matinees are a distant sixth
and seventh in order.

 

·
Customers in the Boroughs gravitate
towards weekends:  Saturday matinee, Saturday evening, Sunday matinee,
Friday night, then Tuesday night.  

 

Pretty cool stuff, right?  The above data allows you to target your initiatives accordingly.  Trying to appeal to city dwellers in January?  You now know when they are most likely to want to come to the theater.  Conversely, you now know when they don’t, and when you may have to dig into your marketing/discounting bag o’ tricks to get them out of their hobbit holes.

The other big question that the Telecharge report poses is about that matinee performance time.  Sure, suburbanites love them, but if our tourists are the bread and butter of our audience, maybe during peak tourist season, that matinee time should be later, giving them more time to dance around the city before they sit down to watch dancing chorus boys and girls.

Telecharge is promising some more research on this subject, and when it’s released, I’ll release it to you.

Tremendous thanks to them for doing the work, and for sharing it with us.

Because sharing information makes us all stronger.

———-

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