Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hating the suck…

or “You can’t lead a horse to water if he’s convinced that he only needs Diet Coke(tm)”

Adam Thurman is one of my must-reads. Granted, on my particular RSS bender that means he’s in my Top 50 but that’s not bad! One the reasons I most love reading him is because he writes as unapologetically in his way as Don Hall. I don;t have to parse what Adam is saying, he just says it.

Which isn’t to say that I don’t disagree sometimes, I do, I just like that I know when I disagree with him.

This of course is one of those times.

Adam says in re: his public speaking competitors:

“And the truth is, a lot of them sucked.  They were (in my eyes) horrible speakers, who bought nothing new or interesting to the table.

As I watched these mediocre (but well paid) speakers do their thing, a huge smile started spreading across my face.  I'll explain why in a sec.

When my time to speak finally came, I busted my ass to deliver the best content I could.  I used every trick in my "public speaking" bag.  When it was done, I was exhausted but the audience loved it.”

Alright there’s nothing to disagree with there. That’s just right.

But it doesn’t apply to me. I don’t think it applies to anyone in Austin, and I’m not sure it applies to anyone in “indie theatre” in 2008. That’s not to say that there isn’t bad theatre going on here, there or anywhere, that sure would be idiotic of me, but we don;t really have The Big Boy Producing Crap here in Austin. We have road houses for that, and the road houses aren’t sucking the oxygen out of the room for us.

The biggest boy on the block here in town is the Zach Scott Theatre and to a lesser degree Austin Shakespeare. Both are aggressive living organizations, they may make missteps, but it’s not due to lowest common denominator serving (they use Christmas moneymakers to fund a pretty reasonable season).

The tier under those two (funds-wise) are high profile innovating small theatre groups. Many have their own spaces, but not all of them. I’m in the third tier and I think you have a pretty good idea of what I’m about.

But Zack or Austin Shakes or TexArts or Salvage Vanguard or the University programs sucking does me no good.


In Adam’s parable he is in a closed system with his competitor. The audience is going to see them both. So the only thing you have to do is be better than your competitor.

That’s not the problem I face.

My potential audience isn’t in the habit of going to the theatre.
They don’t have a vocabulary for it.
They’re unsure of the rules.

My primary (successful) marketing is still acquaintance/personal touch marketing. I have to teach them how to watch and where.

I’m not competing with my big brothers, waiting to take over when they fail (or target a LCD), I’m competing with their memories of t hat time their daughter did a skit in the second grade. I can talk all I want about my potential audiences love of brand, but when they have no vocabulary it doesn’t even matter if the Gatekeepers give their blessing on your production.

I am part of a known entity producing team with recent local awards nominations for our work, three glowing reviews, and polished publicity materials for a respected show by a known local playwright.


Meigs Large JPG

Good seats still available for the final three performances!


I will be over the moon if I clear 150 paid.

That’s ridiculous.

But to improve it? I need for every time that theatre touches a person in this town for it to be positive. I need for them to be leaning towards me when I approach them, not away. I need for them to have seen a Vortex show that one time, of their friends took them to see the Rude Mechs, and it needs to be positive or even personal touch marketing won’t work.

I need (and will be spending the rest of my time in Austin) to have a united front up and down the funding ladder. We need to be talking to each other and helping each other. We must hang togther, else we shall most assuredly hang separately.

I also really want to amend Austin’s second most pretentious t-shirt slogan (after Keep Austin Weird):


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