Tuesday, June 12, 2007


This blog is dedicated to the professional theatre scene in South Florida. I am inviting participation from all of the producing theatres in the region, as well as people involved in all aspects of theatre, to spread the word about who they are and what they are doing.

So who the heck are you?

Some of you know me, many do not. I have worked in South Florida Theatre since 1985, in every category and job description there is. I am currently Production Manager at Actors' Playhouse in Coral Gables. In the past I have worked in Jupiter Theatre (back under Burt Reynolds, and then Richard Aikens), Florida Stage (back when it was Theatre Club of the Palm Beaches), and several other theatre companies. In that time, I've learned that we all face the same basic problems.


I'm not trying to duplicate the work of FPTA or the Theatre League; those are professional organizations, aimed at getting information to other professionals, and providing job leads and business tips. They cover that very well, and do more besides.

I'm trying to foster a deeper exposure to theater than just "here are the shows we're doing." I want to create an environment where people can get excited about the theatre happening in our community. I want to get butts in seats.

Too often, we think that telling people about the schedule of shows we're presenting is enough to get people to come out. "Come and see our exciting interpretation of !" "Come and see this play for the first time anywhere!" "Hey, this one is going to BROADWAY, see it NOW." We have all carved out niches for ourselves: this theatre does new plays, that theatre does musicals, those guys write everything themselves, et cetera. And yes, these approaches bring in people interested in The Exciting New Drama, or The Reliable Old Standard, or The Classic Book Musical, or Six Shows Never Produced Before.

But let's face it, it's not enough. None of us are NOT trying to sell more seats. We're all trying to find ways to entice new patrons into our spaces, to lure in people who have never seen a live play before.

I'm not offering a replacement for your PR department. This isn't going to replace your websites. But I am hoping we can create an adjunct to it: something that can supplement the sparse coverage by the news media. Something that goes a little further than a flyer or poster or blurb on NPR. One place where the curious can hear about all kinds of things about all the different theatres in the area.

So what's the Big Idea?

Weeks and months before movies make it to the theatres, we see interviews with the actors, and clips from the show, documentaries on the special effects used. When we see a movie, we're already anticipating more than just the story, plot and photography. We know that the beautiful young starlet worked with martial arts expert, or that the X-Wing fighters were all CGI, or that the set used up all the steel on the west coast.

TV is much the same: we've been behind the scenes of LOST, or spent a day on the set of EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND. We know all about Eddie the Dog from FRASIER. We know what the cast of FRIENDS had on their craft services table.

I want theatre audiences to have that much background available to them. I want them to be able to lean to their partner and say "Oh, that's the dress I read about!" or "that's the prop they spent two months constructing out of wrecked automobiles!" "Hey, that guy really does sound like he's from my hometown, and I know he's Australian!"

We all spend a lot of time and energy trying to get Christine or Jack or Hap to come out and do a story on our show, or our stars, or our design team, or whatever. We occasionally get a few minutes on the 6 o'clock news, or a slot on the radio, to discuss the show. But it's spotty. It's not like ACCESS HOLLYWOOD, where it's on three times a day and twice on weekends. Maybe the newspapers keep that link active for a week or two, and then it trails off the page. Maybe.

This is our chance to stage a virtual and perpetual backstage tour of every show we ever do. We don't have to sell the idea to the editors of newspapers trying to cut content down. We don't have to convince the network affiliate to pull a camera crew off the latest Celebrity Scandal.

I hope that you will join me.

Maybe you have a point. Now what?

Sign up. Post something.

Here's the thing. I could have set up a blog just for my theatre. I know that most of us have a MySpace account with a blog. And I know that most of us don't have time to keep posting stuff to keep those blogs interesting. Sure, the first month we keep it up, or maybe through one production. But soon the blush is off the peach, or we simply can't keep all the plates spinning.

Individually, we can't post enough new stories or notes or commentary to keep up interest in a blog. And when your blog doesn't change, when the content doesn't update, people lose interest and go find someplace where the action is.

But if we all contribute, we can keep enough interest that people will keep coming back to read. Heck, it can be whatever you post on your MySpace page, just copy and paste it here. New reviews out? Post some links here. Cool picture from the cast party? Put it up.

You can even just email the story in. We all find time to do our email. And this isn't a newspaper; there's no size limit either way. A post that reads "reviews are out" with a link to your website is perfectly acceptable. This introduction is probably a lot longer than anything else that will ever be posted.

It can be ANYTHING. We all have a funny patron story; "Harry, wake up; it's the nude scene!" Post it. "Auditions today." Post it. "Rehearsals started." Post it! "we've updated our website." POST IT!

The whole point is that if we all contribute a little something, we all benefit; so far I've invited 30 people; even if we all only manage to post once a month, we average one new post a day! Imagine; a new story about theatre every day. A MONTH of theatre news.

I do ask that we don't post press releases or newsletters; posting a note that they are on your website with a link to them is fine. But this is supposed to be something beyond press releases and newsletters.

(That's just my thoughts on it, BTW; I won't stop you from posting them if you really want to.)

So who's involved? And why isn't [fitb] invited?

I am inviting a bunch of people: some I know. Some I just found on their theatre's websites. Or the Theatre League's site. If you know somebody who you think should be involved, let me know, and I'll invite them: chrisjahn AT fastmail DOT us
And if you're wondering why I didn't invite you, it's probably that I don't have your email, or I haven't gotten that far through my eddress book. If you're interested ASK ME.

I want this to be a dynamic source of information, and a resource that doesn't add to our workloads. I want it to be something that people interested in theatre will check out every day, and that people IN theatre will find useful.

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