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.