Know Your Audience (Marketing/Hobby crossover idea)

12.10.12 | 6 Comments

CATEGORIES Uncategorized

Thesis: Opportunities to create strong, face-to-face relationships between audience members and playmakers will encourage future attendance and raise awareness of the value of playgoing. Also, if you’re making a go of producing theatre, you probably need all the friends you can make.

Idea: Audience members who have already shown up are golden. You waste an opportunity when you let them walk out into the night after a show without doing some kind of outreach. I’m convinced that many companies could boost audience member likelihood to return and likelihood to recommend by hustling some cast members, company staff, or volunteers into the lobby immediately after curtain to be available for audience members who want to talk. Just greet people briefly, thank them for being there, and give them a little time to respond.

Cast members are especially valuable in this role, because you’ve all just collectively spent time turning them into special people in the minds of the audience. They are, at some scale, celebrities. Our culture puts a lot of value on that. You can use it to your advantage.

For artists, this can be an irksome additional duty or it can be an opportunity to bask in a bit of praise and potentially begin some real friendships with people who already share an important interest with you. They admire you and your work.

That’s step one of the idea. Have some friendly faces greet audience on their way out of the theater and see what happens. Just try it on a couple of Thursday evenings, and then decide whether it works for you.

For extra credit, if much or all of your company repairs to a bar for post show decompression, start telling the audience where and when you’ll be. Probably, few of them will show up; but the ones who do are demonstrating a level of interest in your company that is worth exploring. This can be a great way to get to know people who will be your future volunteers and dedicated promoters. As a bonus, they will often buy you drinks.

Try it out, and let me and others know what you learn.

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Pete Miller

IT and Arts leader, playgoer, board game player, home brewer.
Self ordained chaplain of the American theatre.
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  • Your suggestions are spot on, Pete. I recently wrote about this same topic in a three part series about Authentic Listening. It focuses on how artists can connect with the audience through empathy and listening.

    In part two, I chronicle the rise of Geek Theater from companies like Vampire Cowboys and Gideon Productions. They are fantastic at mixing audience with artists to create community. This congregation is powerful and created an entire movement of theater.

    You can read the entire series here: http://onemuse.com/2012/11/28/authentic-listening-part-1-breaking-the-onlineoffline-binary-barrier/

    • Thanks for the link over to your posts. You’ve helped me focus some of the impulse behind my own idea. If part of why you do theatre is to connect with people, find ways, beyond the presentation of the work, to make those connections. If that isn’t in your set of priorities for playmaking, this idea may not be for you.

      • Thanks for checking it out. Certainly, those who make art for art’s sake don’t need to consider it. But, for those who wish to cultivate audience, it’s essential.

  • This concepts works so well in children’s theatre. When I was at Olney they were producing “Cinderella”. I had seen at other theatres actors great the audience and thought it would be fun to do at Olney. Suggested making a small event of it afterwords like santa’s villiage. We would have the actors sit on thrones and meet the throngs of children for about 45 mins- an hour afterwords (actors got a little extra in their pay). Along with being able to continue their experience kids made their parents bring them back to meet them again as well as purchase more items from our gift shop. this concept can be refined and elevated for a more adult audience that of course wants to talk to actors about process and product. As well as gain a deeper connection to the thing they just saw. Like getting immeidate DVD extras with your ticket purchases.

    • Thank you, Lee. Examples are always better than ideas.

  • Sam

    Arena Stage is doing this with many events, one of which is the post-show Piano Bar which happens about once or twice a production. Cast and audience get the chance to ‘share the stage’ in the lobby, mingle and chit-chat about the show, sing together, drink together. It’s especially strong when there are several productions going on and the audiences mix together. Both cast members and audience members have really responded strongly to this, plus some audience members are starting to come from performances at other theaters to the piano bar.