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I have never been one to shy away from new ideas. And, I am an especially big fan of new ideas that work! Let’s face it – theatre is one of those mediums where our friends and cohorts sometimes do something a little crazy, let alone new, and we applaud them when it works, and we support them even when it doesn’t, just for trying something new.

A few years ago, in 2008 – I had what I thought was a really good idea. I called it: Shared-Stage Productions. The idea was to have a regular series of plays every year whereby one theatre would sponsor another theatre’s production (one that had been already done at the home theatre) for a weekend; so that a show done at, say Buck Creek Players would finish it’s run, store it’s scenery and costumes and props and later in the year or even the next season would produce the show again at, say The Belfry. It had it’s wrinkles to be worked out and the idea had it’s detractors. But it did get people to thinking about new ways to think about handling the production end of theatre. And, the idea was successful – it was based on actually taking a Carmel Community Players show – Art by Yasmina Reza – and producing it on Wayne Township Community Theatre’s stage on the westside of Indianapolis. The idea gathered a lot of steam and then died after much discussion, for reasons that I will not get into in this edition. But we at least tried it and made it happen for us.

Now I have run across another very good idea – although this time it isn’t mine. This idea came out of the fruitful mind of local actor, and Arts Marketing Consultant Clay Mabbitt. Clay has been rather busy lately on Indy stages – I first saw him in A Nice Family Gathering at CCP, a little later he played #3 in The Belfry’s production of Twelve Angry Men, and lately I saw him hit it out of the park in Bug at Spotlight Players. Plus, I know he did a Fringe show here last summer. So, the guy gets around and it turns out he knows a lot about marketing and has his own outfit: Sold Out Run. Clay and I have chatted and talked about the subject of getting audiences into our theatres lately and he told me about a program he was developing on just that subject.

First some background: we all have faced the problem at times – low attendance to our shows, whether we are producing them or directing them. I have worked at many theatres in the area and have observed vast differences in approach to advertising, marketing, and creating audience appeal. “Creating” is the key word, I think. Audiences, at least consistant audiences of good size, don’t just happen on their own. The days of putting up a lot of posters all over town and getting the response of big houses in the theatres are long gone. As Clay points out, we are living in much different times and we are facing wholly new competition for people’s attention. Hey, when you can get in a vehicle, whether it’s a car, a plane or a city bus, and be entertained by your phone or tablet – texting, surfing, watching television shows or movies – it has to be something pretty enticing to get you out of that zone and into the “outer realm” of a live theatre seat.

Clay Mabbitt has put together a concise kit of great ideas entitled Reaching a New Audience. It’s mapped out so even a dumb guy like me can follow it and say – “Yeah – why haven’t I been promoting this way?” One of my favorite ideas: “the script, your cast, and the venue are all free raw material for your promotions. If you want to shoot a video, you’ve already got words, actors, and a location. Get a camera and start rolling.” I really like the idea of video advertising and it is so much a part of everyone’s online life to see videos about things that interest them. Plus, there are so many outlets on which to reach people with a video!

Enough of my trying to explain what the kit is about. Here is a link for the marketing program’s web page: http://soldoutrun.com/newaudience/. It has info and testimonials as well as the link to buy the kit. You’ll get a lot of great information and lots of ideas for improving your audience attendance for $147 with a money back guarantee! That’s ten $15 seats! I figure that the results I will get from using Clay’s ideas will pay for the kit on opening night!

You can tell – I am really excited about this project of Clay’s and I only hope you will give it a look. Nothing to lose, and a whole lot to gain. And as far as new ideas are concerned, there’s this thought –  “Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.” – Oliver Wendall Holmes.

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