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A TheatreFace Chat about 2amt

04.14.10 | Comment?


CATEGORIES about 2am, conversation starter, ideas, marketing, rabble rousing, social media, theatrical ecosystem

This week’s live chat over at TheatreFace.com featured 2amt, among other things…

Here’s a transcript in case you missed it or aren’t a member of TheatreFace. (And if you’re not a member, why the heck not? Go on over to TheatreFace and join up. It’s free, it’s a lovely place to visit, we’re all over there as well and meeting new people every day.)

JACOB COAKLEY: it’s almost time to start, so here come the guidelines!

JACOB COAKLEY: David and I will chat for about the first 15 minutes or so (down from tehusual, b/c I know you’re a chatty bunch)

JACOB COAKLEY: and then I’ll open it up to comments/questions from everyone else.

JACOB COAKLEY: David – if you’ve got a long response to a question, let us know when you’ve finished answering by typing “/e” at the end of your post.

JACOB COAKLEY: like so. /e

JACOB COAKLEY: And we’re off!

DAVID J. LOEHR: Ready when you are.

JACOB COAKLEY: Easy question first — David — how’d you end up in Indiana?

DAVID J. LOEHR: Kidnapped by my then-fiancee, now wife. She’s a librarian by trade, got a job at Hanover College and asked me to join her. Then I got involved with the theatre dept. there and the rest is history.

JACOB COAKLEY: Where were you at before Indiana?

DAVID J. LOEHR: Spent about 13 yrs in the Princeton, NJ, area, shuttling b/w NYC and Philly.

JACOB COAKLEY: did you go to school there?

DAVID J. LOEHR: Nope, it was just a convenient place to live; my father commuted into NYC for his job, and Princeton’s an hour by train.

JACOB COAKLEY: OK, so let’s get into the origin myth next. How’d you end up in theatre?

DAVID J. LOEHR: Well, I always knew I was going to be a writer, it was just a matter of finding a place to fit in. Theatre had always intrigued me back east, and when I came to Hanover, that was the “tipping point.”

JACOB COAKLEY: “Tipping point”? What was that like? And what did you tip into?

DAVID J. LOEHR: At first, it was designing marketing materials–posters, flyers, programs–for the department in exchange for workshopping plays with the students. Soon, I got to learn about the other parts of the building, the other parts of play production.

DAVID J. LOEHR: After four years of that, the chair of the dept and I decided to start our own company to do plays we might not be able to do at the college. /e

JACOB COAKLEY: Riverrun.

DAVID J. LOEHR: Riverrun, that’s right.

JACOB COAKLEY: Do you still do marketing for the college?

DAVID J. LOEHR: Not anymore. The college itself revised how they wanted to run their marketing in general. That’s the main reason. I do still design marketing for other theatre co’s, tho.

JACOB COAKLEY: So about marketing for theatres (we’ll get to sefl-marketing in a sec) — what do you consistently see theatres doing wrong when marketing themselves? Or is there one thing most theatres can always do better?

DAVID J. LOEHR: /e

DAVID J. LOEHR: If I had to boil it down to one word, it would be FOCUS.

DAVID J. LOEHR: Whether it’s the focus of your mission or seasonal selection, or even the imagery you use in marketing, that’s paramount.

DAVID J. LOEHR: So many times, you’ll see busy, confusing posters. I like to see the poster from 50 feet and be intrigued enough to come closer, see the fine details.

DAVID J. LOEHR: The same goes for the rest of your marketing, whether printed or online. You want a consistent style, look, feel, sound.

DAVID J. LOEHR: /e

JACOB COAKLEY: Can you give us an example? MAybe a short summary of the last Riverrun campaign?

DAVID J. LOEHR: In general, I like to use a big, bold, simple image. For a play called “Marion Bridge,” that involved a post-it pad with a crudely drawn heart on the top sheet; this was a vital component of the script, although—

DAVID J. LOEHR: –it didn’t spoil a thing to show that image. On the contrary, it enhanced the moment when the characters found that specific post-it. EVerything clicked.

DAVID J. LOEHR: But for the viewer, the person looking at the poster, it was a simple image that pulled them in. The image is set within a clear framework, the Riverrun house style, so they know whose poster it is from a distance as well.

DAVID J. LOEHR: Dates, times, pricing, etc, that’s what they can read when they’re close up. /e

JACOB COAKLEY: OK, before we open it up to #2amt, I did wanna touch briefly on how to self-market, esp. as a playwright. So, along the lines of “big, bold, simple” images for your theatre. .. .

JACOB COAKLEY: How can playwrights looking to get their work produced (or expand their reach) do something akin to that?

JACOB COAKLEY: There’s been a lot of talk about the travails of the playwright lately — do you ahve any advice from getting your own work produced you can share?

DAVID J. LOEHR: Of course, it starts with the script. Then, I design a package to go with it, as if I were producing it. I’ve self-published some, which can be a good sample to hand off to people as well.

DAVID J. LOEHR: Right now, I’m finding the best luck from making personal connections with theatre companies. Part of the mission of Riverrun–which supports local professional theatre artists in our region–is to produce my work. (Being a local pro etc.)

DAVID J. LOEHR: Having started from there, I’ve been able to meet more people and make those connections. That’s how we’ve been lucky enough to produce a few short plays down at Actors Theatre of Louisville. From that, more connections, more interest and so on.

DAVID J. LOEHR: And–not to steer into the wind or anything–that’s been part of how the whole #2amt has grown, too.

DAVID J. LOEHR: /e

JACOB COAKLEY: Nope, that’s where we’re headed next.

JACOB COAKLEY: So — short summary of #2amt?

DAVID J. LOEHR: Started as a late-night conversation on Twitter back in January. Went on and on, accreting more people as it went; I finally went to sleep at 5:30am, having said I was going to at 1am.

DAVID J. LOEHR: The next day, Kris Vire of Time Out Chicago noted that he’d missed “the great 2am theatre summit.” A few days later, a #2am tag appeared on a theatre question. And again days after that. But there was so much noise on that tag—

DAVID J. LOEHR: /e

JACOB COAKLEY: So, quick show of hands — how many people here follow the #2amt tag on Twitter? Or read the blog over at www.2amtheatre.com?

DAVID J. LOEHR: I do! (hush, David)

BORA “MAX” KONKNAR: Hand!

RACHAEL STOLL: I do as of an hour ago!

RABECCAZ: You know it, dawg. (Hand.)

MARLEY MONK: Hand!

LOIS DAWSON: hand

NICK KEENAN: Oh yes.

JACOB COAKLEY: I know there are others, too — so here’s my question, first to David, then to you all.

JACOB COAKLEY: It’s a great generator of ideas (duh) –

JACOB COAKLEY: How do you decided which to implement? Or track?

KYLE HAMMAN: i do.

JACOB COAKLEY: How are we putting all these into action?

DAVID J. LOEHR: The beauty of it, to me, is that a lot of these ideas could work for theatres at any level, from storefront to major regional theatre. Some are more suited for a major city–Chicago’s something of an incubator for a lot of these ideas…

JACOB COAKLEY: yep….

DAVID J. LOEHR: Others are more suited for my area–small town, centered between Indy, Cincinnati and Louisville. The 360 Storytelling idea is something anyone can do. A membership structure like ACT is trying is possible–with scaling, simplifying–most anywhere.

DAVID J. LOEHR: I think it’s really a matter of seeing what everyone else is trying or thinking, seeing if that’s something my or your theatre could try, if it’s something your community needs/wants/lacks.

DAVID J. LOEHR: /e

JACOB COAKLEY: Communication and raising awareness between levels of theatres and regions is alwaysa good thing.

LOIS DAWSON: I’m starting a new company this year (two shows in the 2010-2011 season – one in the fringe then our big debut) and as I’m jumpinng into a whole new field these ideas are a launching off point for me in creating our marketing plan, among other things

LOIS DAWSON: also use the #2amt tag to solicit advice from the folks who have gone before

JACOB COAKLEY: What Fringe, Lois?

DAVID J. LOEHR: One thing we’ve bandied about is the difference between cooperation and collaboration. We could all use more cooperation across levels and theatres. If collaboration grows from that, wonderful.

JACOB COAKLEY: what does cooperation look like?

LOIS DAWSON: Vancouver Fringe

JACOB COAKLEY: (space use, graphic design station time, etc)

DAVID J. LOEHR: For instance, Steppenwolf’s garage rep series, hosting smaller companies instead of charging them hideous rent for space. Brings new blood into their space. ACT also does similar programs.

JACOB COAKLEY: (we talking San Francisco ACT, or Seattle’s ACT?)

DAVID J. LOEHR: Seattle’s ACT, thank you for noting that.

DAVID J. LOEHR: That’s just one type of cooperation.

BORA “MAX” KONKNAR: I’ve just started a company around January, and am lucky with the timing as #2amt is providing some really great ideas to build the basic infrastructure of the whole company as we move from our inaugural even in Feb to first full production…

DAVID J. LOEHR: Another is maybe a membership program shared by several companies, which exposes audience members to new work, new theatres they might not have even known about before.

BORA “MAX” KONKNAR: I’d also like to note the part #2amt conversation plays in figuring out how many of the broad ideas can be scaled and modified to fit into all sorts of different situations. configurations, levels.

JACOB COAKLEY: ACT and The Public in NYC both doing that. . .

DAVID J. LOEHR: There’s a group of theatre companies in Vancouver–if I’m not mistaken–that has a program similar to that.

TRAVIS BERDARD: [SeeSeven]

DAVID J. LOEHR: Yes, the Public news put a big smile on my face the other week. We’re not insane…

JACOB COAKLEY: Max — what’s one you’re using for the inaugural event?

DAVID J. LOEHR: (Listen to Bedard. SeeSeven in Vancouver.)

JACOB COAKLEY: While he’s typing up that — David – talk a little about your 360 project, and how it’s meant to bring in new audiences, and involve them in a diff way.
BORA “MAX” KONKNAR: We produced a 24 Hour Show… drawing writers, directors and actors using social media, Created 8 short plays in 24 hours and created an instant community around our company who still keep in touch with us, waiting for the next project.

LOIS DAWSON: (SeeSeven is about sharing publicity resources and creating a season ‘s ticket that encompases many companies – they don’t share space)

BORA “MAX” KONKNAR: I’ll squeeze in here that 360 is probably what will be coming next to continue nurturing our new community

DAVID J. LOEHR: The 360 is a storytelling format. Unlike the Moth and others that are curated and programmed, this is literally open to anyone in the audience. It’s not a competition or a “slam,” it’s just telling stories.

DAVID J. LOEHR: Everyone has six minutes–or 360 seconds–to bring a story full circle. That keeps the teller focused–there’s that word again–and keeps the event moving.

DAVID J. LOEHR: The nice thing is, instead of pulling back the curtain and showing your audience the “process” from a distance, this makes them the process. They get the electric joy of telling a story to an appreciative crowd.

DAVID J. LOEHR: You can have themed nights, you can let a theme grow from the stories on the spot (which does happen and is amazing to watch).

DAVID J. LOEHR: Best of all, you can do it in your venue or move it around to sponsors, whether cafe, bookstore, library, winery, any place that’ll let you.

DAVID J. LOEHR: And it’s free. All we ask is that you credit 2amt with the format.

DAVID J. LOEHR: /e

JACOB COAKLEY: Perfect.

JACOB COAKLEY: Max is thinking about it — has anyone here (other than David) organized one fo these? or participated?

TRAVIS BEDARD: Not yet but I will.

JACOB COAKLEY: David — how would you go about approaching sponsors esp. non-trad spaces like bookstores, to let you host something like this?

KYLE HAMMAN: Not yet. Working on putting one together with social media as the theme.

JACOB COAKLEY: Where are you based, Kyle?

NICK KEENAN: New Leaf Theatre in Chi is organizing one on the subject of Hunger for our production of Curse of the Starving Class.

KYLE HAMMAN: Chicago. Strawdog Theatre Company.

DAVID J. LOEHR: I would simply walk in and ask. It helps if you already have a good relationship with the sponsor/business. If it’s a place you hang out often, if they know you, that’s a great shortcut.

RACHAL STOLL: I fished to to my friends who just started a new theatre company. I think it’s something they will jump on.

JACOB COAKLEY: There’s that “Chicago as percolator for theatre ideas thing again… 🙂

DAVID J. LOEHR: If not, just introduce yourself and explain the concept. They ought to like the idea of “people sitting in my business, buying drinks, having a good time.” Kind of sells itself, in my experience.

NICK KEENAN: I think it’s that we have enough cos connected to this national conversation that we can quickly iterate 4 versions of an idea and see which implementation is successful.

TONY ADAMS: @Kyle 360 would probalbly go gangbusters with the radio show

DAVID J. LOEHR: Oh yeah. 360’s well suited for radio, podcast, online, Skyping, anything. So simple…

KYLE HAMMAN: @nick or successful to what degrees for different companies/goals.

DAVID J. LOEHR: And Nick’s right. (I say this often.) We can try different variations quickly and easily around the country and share what works, what doesn’t very easily.

JACOB COAKLEY: That’s a good question — for those companies planning one of these, what are the goals?

KYLE HAMMAN: @tony the radio show is currently being revamped so yeah. absolutely.

TRAVIS BEDARD: Fun.

DAVID J. LOEHR: Fun, definitely. Engagement. Community building. Sharing that joy and then inviting them to see the stories we tell, if they don’t attend shows already.

JACOB COAKLEY: Interactive marketing. . . 🙂

DAVID J. LOEHR: Yup. It’s fully-immersive, 3-D, interactive…

JACOB COAKLEY: Adn it requires a lot less start-up costs than an immersive ride at Disney…

DAVID J. LOEHR: All you need is a timer and maybe a bell.
KYLE HAMMAN: Bedard is right. Fun. but we also have a liquor license so we are looking for programming that will allow for creative expression/performance but also sell some drinks. it’s a fine line.

BORA “MAX” KONKNAR: For us (Bindlepunks in Bay area), it’s very much still part of our ‘coming out’ we want to establish a community, one of participants in our future work as well as of audiences.

DAVID J. LOEHR: That’s a very good point, Kyle. It’s something that can drive more sales to your own bar, which is only a good thing.

NICK KEENAN: It also puts the audience in control of the process. it’s the right kind of immersion – active instead of passive. They get a rush when they step into that light or when they grab that microphone and have to PERFORM.

DAVID J. LOEHR: It’s been amazing to see people who came to watch who then come out of their shell and want to join in.

BORA “MAX” KONKNAR: Active participation in an organization/idea = ownership = investment in its success.

JACOB COAKLEY: I know it’s not a competition, but is there any incentive to participate — free drink, free tix, discounta t bookstore — other than rush of perfomring?

RACHEL STOLL: Out in LA free drinks is a liability issues a lot of the time.

DAVID J. LOEHR: There can be. It’s very flexible. So it can be a competition if you want, or it can come with coupons to your shows, etc.

JACOB COAKLEY: Yeah, I suppose “free beer” might not be the safest legal ground to be on… 🙂

RACHEL STOLL: Yeah I was setting up an event and wanted to do drink tickets included in the price. Alas.

DAVID J. LOEHR: Work with a restaurant or caterer and offer free food, this would be marketing for them with a captive audience.

JACOB COAKLEY: OK – we don’t have to stop, but we are at the point when I have to officially say “Thank you” to David — So…. Thank you!

LOIS DAWSON: And alas, I have to run. THe theatre needs me (something about a photoshoot?)

JACOB COAKLEY: And I know many of you have day gigs to get to as well. (case in point)

DAVID J. LOEHR: Thank you, too, Jacob! And anyone who wants to ask more, just jump in on the #2amt tag on twitter, and/or follow me @dloehr or @2amt.

DAVID J. LOEHR: But I’m game to hang out for a while…

JACOB COAKLEY: So — we’d love everyone to stick around and keep chatting, or browse the forums here on TheatreFace and keep the convo going here as well… and in all the other channels David mentions.

David J. Loehr

David J. Loehr

Writer / Producer, The Incomparable Radio Theater :: Artist-in-Residence / Producer, Riverrun Theatre Company, Madison, Indiana :: Artistic Director / Editor, 2amt :: Panelist, The Incomparable podcast :: Husband, father, cat owner, cat bed.
David J. Loehr

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