Archive for June, 2009

Life After Print: PART FIVE

Posted in Uncategorized on June 29, 2009 by rubyslipperstheatre

The fifth and final installment in our series on the future of theatre during the death of print media:
4.    Should we be doing anything to change or encourage the change?

Rebecca Coleman: If traditional journalists are changing the way they write stories, then so do we have to adapt. Embrace the revolution!!

Sue Porter:
This a cross-discipline issue, so I think we need to get more cooperative with the music and dance and visual arts communities to develop alternative means of promotion.

Tom Cone: To change requires a re-thinking in how to sell a production.  A new imagination is required. DEFY PRINT.  If you get any let it be the dessert.

Nathan Medd: What I have tried to do is to keep guessing who’d be interested in a particular show, find out where their eyes are, and be there when they look.  In 2005 at Intrepid Theatre in Victoria, we presented The Black Rider.  Three weeks out, I built a profile in a local goth chatroom and started plugging the costume design as hard as I could.  I went to the music chatrooms and talked up Tom Waits.  We started building excitement in the communities that were likely to care about the work, and since the show was good too, we managed to sell it out through single tickets.

J Kelly Nestruck: Theatres need to find new ways to connect with their communities they are based in. How? I don’t know. But theatre has survived so much – the collapse of ancient Greek civilization, the Puritans, the advent of cinema, Beta, VHS, DVD and the internet –  the death of print is nothing to worry about.

Further thoughts…?

Tom Cone: Remember the Federal election in the fall?  Remember the arts fighting back? The same can be done with selling a production.  Put your advertising budgets in videos hitting a number of demographic blogs.  It will inspire word of mouth -still the best way to sell a show.

Nathan Medd: We had fun redesigning our website this spring – we included a module for people to leave comments on shows, like on news sites, plus twitterfeeds on the news and contact pages. The result seems to be an audience that is engaged and aware of how active we are, even when we aren’t on the stage performing to them. In sports, fans expect now to be led behind the scenes, into the practice rink, into the gym, into the locker room, for immediate and in-depth access.  I want to build that sense of access in our audience too, because ultimately we are entertainment, same as sports.
The only other thing I’ll add, is something that has been running around my mind lately… I find that just as many people come to Electric Company shows for our name than for the title of our shows.  I realize that we need to be promoting our theatre events more like a rock band than a play.  I go to see a group like Crystal Castles or Radiohead not because I care what their latest album is called, but because they kicked ass last time and I know they will again…

So what does all this mean?  What I have learned in my recent social media education is it is time for us to break out the creativity.  It’s true, the old ways of marketing a show really might completely disappear.  But there is still an audience out there to be reached.  And as with creating art, the biggest chance might just reap the greatest reward.  Explore.  Experiment.  Share with each other.
Stay tuned for what happens next…


Life After Print: PART FOUR

Posted in Uncategorized on June 26, 2009 by rubyslipperstheatre

The fourth part in our series on the future of theatre during the death of print media:

3.    What  is taking its place and how will this change the face of theatre?

Rebecca Coleman: Social media. While traditional media outlets are struggling, content continues to grow on the internet. Get a Google Reader account and start getting to know some bloggers. Start your own blog or start Twittering. Get involved with Flickr, YouTube or Facebook.

Nathan Medd: We arguably get better word-of-mouth from showing up in people’s Facebook status than from a newspaper.  They can articulate their enthusiasm to everyone they know in ten seconds.  For Electric Company’s next show, if I give $2 to everyone who includes us in his or her status for a week, and 1000 people take me up on that, I’m starting to think I’ll have spent my budget more wisely there than on three little print ads.

J Kelly Nestruck: There is a lot more writing about theatre available now than there was five years ago thanks to blogs, etc. The question is, are as many people reading these online sources, or is it an echo chamber where theatre practitioners and hard-core fans chatter among themselves?  When I tweet something about a play, I know about 450 people will see it. But in the paper, several hundred thousand people might stumble across my review of a play. How, I wonder, will theatres now reach people who aren’t looking for them?
Sue Porter: The Alliance for Arts & Culture recently sponsored a day-long workshop on the topic of social media that was so popular they added a second day!.  The GVPTA convened our own advocacy committee to start looking at creative ways to deal with the issue.

Tom Cone: What is taking place – not in  this city yet-  is tackling the internet in a very creative way. Theatre artists will now begin to exercise their filmic and video muscles to reach out.  Otherwise you’re dead in the water.

Life After Print: PART THREE

Posted in Uncategorized on June 25, 2009 by rubyslipperstheatre

The second part in our series on the future of theatre during the death of print media:

2.    What in your personal experience is the impact of the changes so far?

J Kelly Nestruck: My paper seems to be very committed to covering theatre. With me blogging and twittering, arguably there is more Globe coverage of theatre now than there has ever been. It’s been much worse south of the border.

Nathan Medd: I worry way more about what the change in print journalism could mean for the veracity of news reporting, but I do think about it for our work too.  Our audience is getting its information online now.  But when we did No Exit at the Digital Media Centre last summer, we had only 130 seats to fill and we were able to do that for two weeks with a publicity budget of $3000.  That got us a great publicist and three weeks of ads in the Straight.  The rest was Facebook, word-of-mouth, and a hot show.
I was talking to a major BC rock promoter the other day, who told me he’s about to pull out of his regular full-page ad in an arts weekly soon and switch to direct emails only.  His email list is growing faster than the paper’s circulation.  The problem is his money is important to the paper, so they’ll be hurting even more after he’s gone.

Rebecca Coleman:
According to Trish Hussey who recently published a post called “Smart Journalists Tweet While Newspapers Wrap Fish”:
They’ve (journalists) seen the handwriting on the wall, and they see that it’s adapt or become fish wrappers. The Vancouver Sun and Reuters aren’t the only news folks on Twitter of course. Almost all of our local news outlets are on Twitter and interacting with the community at large. What do we get? Headlines pushed to us. What do they get? News sources. Lots of news sources.

Life After Print: PART TWO

Posted in Uncategorized on June 24, 2009 by rubyslipperstheatre

The second part in our series on the future of theatre during the death of print media:

1.    What is your prediction about the future of any print coverage of theatre?

Tom Cone: Dire.  Papers across the states are closing every day.    The LA Times let go of their arts editor to save money to keep the critics going for a short time.

J Kelly Nestruck:
I’m not concerned about the death of physical print particularly – I read most newspapers and magazines online already. I am concerned about the drying up of advertising, however.  It’s the best of times and the worst of times to work at a newspaper. The articles we write are being read by more people than ever before thanks to our websites, but the revenue model is, well, not what it used to be. Blogs aren’t filling the gap.

Nathan Medd: I read a review of Studies in Motion on my phone’s web browser in the bathtub the other day, and it felt almost normal.  In theatre, I think that the same old important methods of finding an audience will remain: building community, producing with consistency, achieving quality, and partnering smartly.   It’s less important that our critics are paid – we aren’t asking them to cover a war or even to fact-check – as long as they are loud and well-liked.

Life After Print

Posted in Uncategorized on June 23, 2009 by rubyslipperstheatre

The writing is on the wall – newspapers are failing.  Around the world, in this age of economic crisis and internet dominance, more and more newspapers are going belly-up.  Or, in an effort to avoid bankruptcy, are cutting back, and arts sections are often the first to go.

The evidence?  Well, the Globe and Mail has cut 10% of its workforce. Rebecca Coleman reported at “Jerry Wasserman, a local theatre critic that writes for Vancouver’s Province newspaper…will no longer be reviewing theatre for The Province newspaper. Arts and entertainment editor Carey Gillette wants the community to know that The Province will still preview plays and profile theatre artists, and she hopes that when the economy turns around, Jerry and his reviews will be back in the paper.”  She also “got an email from Michael Harris, who reviews plays for The Globe and Mail here in Vancouver. It said: ‘I’m afraid I have some bad news… The Globe and Mail has cancelled its weekly Vancouver theatre listings, effective immediately.’”

And it doesn’t end there.

So where does that leave both theatre audience and creators?  How much reliance do both groups have on newspapers to distribute information about shows?  What will the world of theatre look like in life after print?

In a microcosm of this point, Ruby Slippers has gone from a printed version of The Flying Monkey to this, your e-newsmagazine.  The costs are lower, distribution is potentially higher, and it has a more friendly environmental impact.  It just makes sense.  And as editor and a member of Generation Why, I can say that I have never had a newspaper subscription. It’s just not how I get my information.

We enlisted the input of some fellow theatre-folk to hear how this is affecting them, and I will be posting their comments over the next few days:

J Kelly Nestruck

J Kelly Nestruck

Flying Monkey Contributors:

J. Kelly Nestruck is the theatre critic at The Globe and Mail. He blogs at and tweets at

Tom Cone is a playwright

Nathan Medd

Nathan Medd

Nathan Medd is Managing Producer at Electric Company Theatre in Vancouver.  He has been meaning to see Twilight.

Rebecca Coleman

Rebecca Coleman

Rebecca Coleman is a freelance theatre publicist, actor, writer, blogger, and producer.  She is passionate about helping artists to be better businesspeople.

Sue Porter

Sue Porter

Sue Porter
has worked as an actor, teacher, and director in Canada, Holland, and California and is now the Executive Director of the Greater Vancouver Professional Theatre Alliance.

Rachel Peake

Rachel Peake

Editor Rachel Peake is the Artist-in-Residence at Ruby Slippers, the co-Artistic Director of Solo Collective, and a freelance director.