Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Get out the Map, Get out the Map…

Isaac asks if these posts from Jason Stoddard can apply to theatre:

I answer:

10. Divorce yourself from bad design.
I think this is important both on the web and in production.
We accept a lot of unacceptable tech from companies that obviously don’t have money. Not being able to do Big in no way excuses you from doing it Right.

As for the web? I think I can mostly exclude current company, because most bloggers aren’t afraid of technology. But in general the theatre community is morally opposed to and doesn’t WANT to understand it. And their (lack of) web presence shows it.

It’s cheap and easy to set up your own site. And if you’re afraid to do even that? Make a blog your company site. But have SOMETHING, and make sure it looks better than high school class projects. We’re trying to sell stuff here people!

9. Bring us together.

This is my primary goal in most areas, but especially for theatre artists. *SniffSniff* We don’t even talk anymore. We get so lost in rowing our own boats we’ve stopped looking around to see if anyone is headed in the same direction. I talk about this enough, moving on.

8. Stop devaluing yourself.

And not just by not getting paid. Remove the word ‘just’ from your vocabulary. Your knowledge, skill, and experience are worth something – decide on what and how much. And then don’t be afraid to ask for it – even if it’s nothing more than someone else’ expertise in your weaker area on your next project. Ain’t nothin’ free. Including you.

7. Embrace reality.

We can rant and rave all day every day about how crappy conditions are for theatre artists here on the ground, and how we would make them better. BUT…
We need to operate in the here and now. Take the challenge. You don’t need to embrace the bizarre punk-martyr ethos that some of the more exotic blog commenters seem to feel is The One True way to go about doing indie theatre, but you do need to find ways to make the most of the cramped inappropriate spaces and the credit cards limits you’re operating under. Don’t ignore your limits, know them, embrace them, then Innovate to overcome them.

Also? Do theatre.
If you want to make films the cameras are over there.
(and you’re going to need a bigger credit card)

6. Lose the negativity.

Both in talking to one another, and about your lot in life.

This is a public space, and everything you say can and will be held against you. I’m as hotheaded as the next guy, and I would love to go toe-to-toe in an ad hominem war with noted curmudgeon Don Hall (being as I am doing bad work in the sticks and all).
As much fun as that would be, my job is to make sure he’s wrong, not to prove it to him rhetorically. All the while not looking like a douchebag to anyone who’s looking at me or one of my companies later.

And none of us are working in spaces that are too big, too well equipped, or have budgets we just don’t know what to do with. There’s a difference between seeking change for the greater good and whining, mind the gap.

5. Define your messages.

I believe that you shouldn’t make plays just to make plays, but I also know that part of the reason I started writing here in the first place was because I’m not sure what my message is yet. But I think in the long run you need clarity because the audience won’t show up in force until they have a pretty good idea of what they’re getting when they show up. Like WNEP or LA’s Neo-Surrealists, or the Rude Mechs here in Austin, have a mission statement, have it mean something, and don’t lie to your audiences unless that IS your mission.

4. Get visible–on all levels.

Be transparent. Folks like knowing what they’re getting, and what they’re getting is you and your company. We have a great medium for your being available 24-hours a day via web presence in a very inexpensive, customizable way let them see you. Even (maybe even especially) the goofy non-theatre related parts of you.
Be accessible.

3. Create fans–and benefits.

Goes hand in hand with #5. Rubber Rep here in Austin has been putting out quality product so long that their shows sell themselves (even when they’re not doing Wallace Shawn premieres). Consistent excellence is the best audience aphrodisiac.

Barring that breakthrough, don’t be afraid to put your rep company front and center. The same (again quality) faces up front make people comfortable. It may not make you the star, but if you’re making theatre to become a star you’re probably doing it wrong anyway.

Both speak to the need to give an audience something to hook in to, something to identify your company with to become fans of.

Then give them deals. Create coupons on your site and others. Group packages, free nights, BOGO’s, theatre company nights, any reason really to bring a friend. You will have warmer audiences if they’re making a night of it, even with just one other friend, and if that house is full even they aren’t all full price tickets.

2. Create your own worlds.

An offshoot of #3, with an additional  hat tip to James Comtois, Qui Nguyen, and Ian Hill who I think accomplish this in exactly the way that I imagine it. Their pieces all speak to each other, and have a clear style.

1. Fund a big idea or two.

I think fund is the wrong verb. But undertake works for me.

Like what? A theater museum? The Chicago Theater Database? The Off Loop Charter? The >100K Project?


Solutions to larger problems (or gaps anyway). A moment away from working on your next show perhaps, but no less needed by the community at large than your next work.

Alright, so that exercise turned out to not really be applicable to anyone who reads this. Well done me. It’s already written so I’ll throw it out there… Carry on all.

And Isaac? The (much) shorter answer is yes, I think it can apply….

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