Thursday, May 29, 2008

Selling Community Theatre - A couple Thoughts

Since this is the first blog I've written here, I guess I should start by saying that I'm Geoff and theatre and performing has been my passion since I was a kid. I have been a media advertising and marketing professional for most of my career and that has bled over into trying to help community theatre groups in the communities around where I live in Cleveland market themselves in new and more effective ways. One of those ways has been "Call-Back" a video cable series that documents the process of producing plays and musicals. Check out the links to the right to see some videos from the Call-Back series. The latest Call-Back project is a show that I'm directing at the Huntington Playhouse in Bay Village, Ohio called "Some Enchanted Evening" - a musical revue of Rodgers and Hammerstein classics. Check out the Some Enchanted Evening site link for more details about the show.

Without getting up on some soapbox, I guess the first thought I want to start with here and one that I have been trying to preach to theatre groups in my community, is that we can no longer depend on "the kindness of strangers" (i.e. charitable or philanthropc giving) to subsidize our theatres. Community theatres have had sort of an identity crisis in that for decades we have sort of sheepishly done an "Oliver Twist" and "asked for more". In these tough economic times, there is "no more". So do we fold up our tents and fade into the sunset? Absolutely not.

I think we have to start thinking of our theatres as real economic engines in our communities with valuable resources. Then we have to sell them like other products and services. What is our most valuable resource? Our audiences. Night after night we have (hopefully) a captive audience that is used to seeing messages from sponsors in just about every other walk of life..why not our theatres as well? We need to know all we can about our audiences so that we can translate the value of exposure in front of them to potential sponsors. Companies will pay for solutions that they believe will solve problems and help them reach their goals. So the first step is to meet with as many corporate partners as possible and LISTEN...don't get an understanding of what their needs might be. Then it's a matter of matching our audiences with opportunities that help solve a client's problem and we're on the right track.

We are such a creative community on the stage - it just seems like as soon as we start talking about the inevitable business of running a theatre, we start to glaze over. Let's get creative with that too!

Much more to come but I'd love to get your feedback as well. Thanks and break a leg!

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