BWW Blog: Adam Brandner - Getting the Word Out
Sometimes change can be good. Even a little break can be all you need sometimes to cure the monotony of your day to day routine. As actors, the rehearsal schedules can get grueling and even tedious and it's possible that even after all of your hard work teching a show, only your grandma and best friend show up to see it. In my experience, community theatre crowds can be very, very small. I've performed musicals in front of crowds less than twenty before. It's discouraging. What is to be done? Spend thousands on promotion? Call up Miley Cyrus for a twerking commercial spot that will most definitely fill your theatre's empty seats? No. For the most part, promotional budgets simply don't exist for community theatres. If they do, they don't pack enough punch to get the word out to those who aren't looking for your promotion already. In this article, I'd like to give a few suggestions for bringing theatrical awareness to your community and for breaking the monotony of a tough rehearsal schedule for your cast. I have a few ideas as to how you can make people aware of your show. Also, these suggestions just may be the change/break your cast may need to keep the energy alive and the seats packed.
The Candlelit Acoustic Music of...... (Insert title of your musical here)
An acoustic night at your local theatre space, local library, or school can really be fun. For this example, I will use RENT the Musical as a reference. RENT has a lot of energy at times but it also has several heart-breaking moments. Take the upbeat songs like: Take Me or Leave Me, Out Tonight, and Tango Maureen, and turn them into ballads. With a simple guitar or piano melody, you can bring new meaning to an up-tempo song. It can make for a very relaxing night and give your cast a chance to explore the material in a new and creative way. It also can be fun to create a coffee house type of environment with your cast and crew and putting flyers around your community will bring people in. If you put on a great show, then hopefully those attendees will come to your actual musical which you will promote like crazy while you have their attention.
Cast/Crew Movie Lock-In!
This opportunity is an all night event that is basically an extended technical rehearsal. One night, before tech week begins, invite your cast and crew to a lock in at the theatre where you can work on design elements together. You can paint sets, sew costumes, design promotional posters, practice make-up techniques etc... Invite the cast/crew to bring friends or family members. Have pizza or some snack (like popcorn) to make it even more fun. Also, at midnight, take a break and pop in the movie version of your musical. You'd be surprised how many of the cast and crew haven't actually seen the movie of the musical they are in currently. Pizza, painting, and popcorn! Does it get better? This chance to bond may be just what your cast needs.
Take your show on the road!
Volunteer at your local library/elementary school to read stories/perform scenes for children. Actors are storytellers and getting in front of several 3rd graders to animate the story of Poe's The Raven, will be a fun challenge and really make learning accessible. It also gives your cast another chance to bond. Last year, my campus did School House Rock Live! We took a few of our most popular scenes like: Conjunction Junction and I'm Just a Bill on the road to the nearby elementary school. The campus was happy to host us because we were bringing educational entertainment and we were free. We also gave away free tickets and t-shirts to our little audience members that could answer our trivia questions in between songs. It was a great time and we were able to promote our show. I also was able to promote my program. Hopefully, I'll see a few of those young faces in my theatre class when they come to my school.
Coffee Night of Improvisation or a Poetry Slam
This event can be tweaked to fit the needs of your community. In my case, an international style coffee night in my library media center would work perfectly with a little finger snap clapping included in our unique evening. We will have food from around the world, coffee to make us feel like grown ups, and really strong improve scenes. This event also can be done at a local bookstore if they are willing to play ball. The more people that see you, the more people that now know about your show that wouldn't have otherwise. Improvisation exercises really can get a cast to gel. If you can snag a member of your administration or local figurehead it can make the night even more entertaining and perhaps fill the seats better. Have your cast wear their show shirts and greet the guests with different accents. Bonjour!