"In all this talk about declining audience, diminished subscriptions rates, low paid actors and overpriced tickets . . . I think we may have missed the point of the arts.
We keep talking about finding ways for people to connect with our particular art form.
But people don't want to connect to art . . . they want to connect to other people.
So instead of a theatre company seeing their performance on stage that night as the point of the evening, perhaps they should just see themselves as the hub . . . as the thing that connects all the people in the audience to each other."
Now this is why I started blogging - to create an online community around community theater. So let's dream for a moment ...
Wouldn't it be wonderful to have full houses of people interested and excited about the art, the theater we are creating?
Wouldn't it be Lover'ly to be an activity that draws people in - an EVENT not just entertainment.
Then for the practical part the 'How do we create this?'
The writer of the quote is correct - Theater needs to become an experience, part of the evening but not the center of the evening. Creating an environment where people connect will keep them coming back and talking about the experience to their friends. That's why online social networking sites (myspace, facebook and many many others) work - because they connect people.
Some times of theater already do this naturally - theater in the round, for example lends itself nicely to interaction. Murder Mystery Whodunits. What other types of interactions could naturally occur at the theater?
- Ushers who interact and introduce audience members
- Encourage mingling before the show and during intermission
- Discussion panels with the actors, production crew, etc?
- Giving the Audience members tools to help spread the word about the show - Postage paid postcards or free postcard emails to send to friends ... right in the lobby of the theater
- Bringing and continuing the discussion of the show after it's over - a series of thought provoking plays or themed shows that include discussion or fun activities?
- Having online forums to discuss the show or have online Q & A's.
- Having Live theater blogging/podcast/video cast of events
The only word of caution is best made in the words of Seth Godin in Meatball Sundae: Is Your Marketing out of Sync?, a book in which he describes the errors that old media keeps making - that is putting social media (sundae toppings) on legacy products (meatballs) without a care for if the flavors go together. (yuck! - but the book is a good read)
In making Theater a 'hub' and creating a community or new experience, let's make sure we're applying the tools in a way that makes sense.
What ways do you think community theater could add a dimension of interaction or work towards becoming a hub? I'd love to know your thoughts.