Monday, April 27, 2009

Remember That Guy From the Wall Street Journal?

Columnist's nameA few months ago, you may recall that the Wall Street Journal's Drama Critic reviewed a couple of shows in South Florida. Terry Teachout's reviews of The Chairs at Palm Beach DramaWorks, and Adding Machine at Gablestage, brought the local theatre scene to national prominence, and not coincidentally gave ticket sales a good kick in the pants.

Today Terry gives us an instruction manual on how to get him interested in reviewing your show. A lot of it is what you'd expect: he's more likely to visit an area with several shows to visit, he doesn't review community theater, he's picky about material, and so on.

But what may not seem obvious is that he's also judging by websites:

Web sites matter--a lot. A clean-looking home page that conveys a maximum of information with a minimum of clutter tells me that you know what you're doing, thus increasing the likelihood that I'll come see you. An unprofessional-looking, illogically organized home page suggests the opposite. (If you can't spell, hire a proofreader.) This doesn't mean I won't consider reviewing you--I know appearances can be deceiving--but bad design is a needless obstacle to your being taken seriously by other online visitors.

If you want to keep traveling critics happy, make very sure that the front page of your Web site contains the following easy-to-find information and features:

(1) The title of your current production, plus its opening and closing dates.

(2) Your address and main telephone number (not the box office!).

(3) A SEASON button that leads directly to a complete list of the rest of the current and/or upcoming season's productions. Make sure that this listing includes the press opening date of each production!

(4) A CALENDAR or SCHEDULE button that leads to a month-by-month calendar of all your performances, including curtain times.

(5) A CONTACT US button that leads to an updated directory of staff members (including individual e-mail addresses, starting with the address of your press representative).

(6) A DIRECTIONS or VISIT US button that leads to a page containing directions to your theater and a printable map of the area. Like many people, I now rely on my GPS unit when driving, so it is essential that this page also include the street address of the theater where you perform. Failure to conspicuously display this address is a hanging offense. (I also suggest that you include a list of recommended restaurants and hotels that are close to the theater.)

Any of this sound remotely familiar?

Be sure to read it, and if you work in theatre, compare his notes against your page, and take action.

Seriously, that hideous Actors' Playhouse page those ugly websites are killing me.

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