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Road To Reopening: Zach Theatre Prepares To Reopen With New Monthly Subscription Offering

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The venue has unveiled a new monthly subscription pass that allows you to attend unlimited performances, and comes with more benefits!

Road To Reopening: Zach Theatre Prepares To Reopen With New Monthly Subscription Offering

BroadwayWorld is checking in with theaters around the country as they prepare to reopen this summer. Next in our series we check in with Zach Theatre's Director of Marketing and Communications Drew Nebrig about their upcoming reopening, new subscription offering and more.

Drew is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University with dual degrees in Music and Advertising. A lover of theater, music and the arts, Drew grew up in Dallas, Texas attending and performing in shows at every chance she got. She spent 7 years in New York City working as an Account Supervisor at the largest full-service advertising and marketing agency in the live entertainment industry managing the Wicked, Beautiful the Carole King Musical, Second Stage Theatre, and Oh Hello accounts among others. She made the move to Austin to join the team at ZACH Theatre as the Director of Marketing and Communications and now oversees an energetic team of marketers focused on ZACH's brand development, digital and offline advertising, PR and partnerships. She values hard work, integrity in all you do, and to always have fun while doing it.

What has your theater's staff been up to over the past year?

So many things! We pivoted our in-person education camps and classes to virtual, live classes early in the pandemic. After producing a few streamed performances, we decided to take on outdoor concerts with socially-distanced pod seating in our Songs Under the Stars concert series which ran August 2020 through Summer 2021. It was obvious by our sold-out crowds that Austin was ready to get back to live music.

How has the pandemic most affected your company?

Like so many arts organizations around the country, we had to shut down our season quickly last year when the pandemic hit. When we realized this wasn't going to end any time soon, it lead to significant revenue loss, layoffs and furloughs. We are lucky to have our outdoor People's Plaza which allowed us to create a performance space outdoors and continue producing which meant we could keep our smaller staff employed through the pandemic.

Have you done any streaming theatre/events?

We made a few past performances available on our website ZACH Now! as well as a few livestreamed productions in early 2020. We found more success producing outdoor performances, and decided to focus on that starting Fall of 2020.

What have the audience reactions to any digital performances been like?

In the beginning of the pandemic, audiences were so grateful to have theatre in any form! After a few months, we noticed the "Zoom fatigue" spread to online content as well, and our audiences weren't as interested in streamed performances, though we still have a set of people who prefer it!

What have you got coming up you're most excited to share with audiences?

Our first production of the season is Into the Woods which will be reimagined in completely unexpected ways. The story remains the same, but the context of 2020 - the pandemic, Black Lives Matter, panic-buying of goods, lockdown - all of the giants we wrestled over the past 18 months... they are all present in the story-telling as well. But the message remains the same: no one is alone, and there is light at the end of the tunnel.

We also just launched our new Membership program - ZACH XP - which gives audiences unlimited tickets to shows for $39 a month. We're one of the first theatres in the country to launch a model like this, and we're excited to see where it goes!

How did your venue come up with a reopening plan/covid safety plan?

We have spent months discussing our reopening plans and have various committees of staff and board members preparing our plans and policies. We didn't expect to still be in this serious a stage of the pandemic come Fall 2021, but here we are. With that in mind, we've decided the only way we can remain open and move forward with our season is to implement a negative COVID test or Proof of Vaccination requirement for audiences, to make sure everyone is safe. If there is a way to ensure we can keep art on stage, keep our audiences and staff safe, and not add to the burden of our healthcare workers, we're going to do it. We've received such a positive response from that decision.

Will there be any adjustments in capacity or seating/vaccination or testing requirements?

Our first show is outdoors and will have a max capacity of 300 which is lower than our typical indoors capacity. Beginning this November, we'll move back inside with a fll 420 seat capacity for A Christmas Carol. Audiences will be required to show either a negative COVID-19 test or proof of vaccination upon entry, and masks will be required for the duration of the performance.

Will there be any changes to the on-stage aspects of the shows in response to the pandemic?

Our actors and crew are on Equity contracts, and all employees working on the productions will follow Actor's Equity Association's COVID requirements which include capacities on number of people in a room for rehearsals, length of time indoors, a COVID safety Manager on site at all times, etc.

Were there any COVID considerations in programming the upcoming season - selecting titles, etc?

While this didn't dictate our season by any means, it was important to us that the season speak to the times we're in. We wanted to be sensitive to what people have gone through for the past 18 months and let their theatre experience be cathartic, hopeful, and uplifting.

Will there be any changes to your ticketing policies, flexible rescheduling, etc?

ZACH Theatre has been very flexible throughout the pandemic, and we'll continue to do so. We've relaxed and refund and exchange policies quite a bit. If anyone needs to make changes for health concerns, we'll make it happen no questions asked.

How did you come up with the monthly subscription plan?

We created this plan in response to audiences' desire for more flexibility, control over their seating and show date choices, and less up front cost. Theaters across the country have seen people move away from traditional "fixed seating" subscription packages more and more - into more flexible subscriptions. This model is more in line with how audiences consume other entertainment media (think Netflix, Spotify, Alamo Drafthouse Season Pass). We're hoping to break down some of the barriers that prevent people from subscribing to their city's theater and meet them where they are.

Does the theatre have any hardcore fans who attend shows multiple times?

Yes! Most of our audience attend each show once - maybe twice - but we have a contingent of people who will come to their favorite show 10, even 20 times (looking at you, Hedwig fans!). While ZACH XP is a no-brainer for those folks, it's really created for the theater lover who may only see each show once, but comes to most shows in the season. Even if they don't make them all, it's still a cost and time savings for them.

Since you generally run one performance a month with maybe a bit of overlap, is the intention some people will see a show multiple times?

Seeing a show multiple times is really a bonus. ZACH XP caters to the theater lover who wants to see most of the shows on the season - whether it's one time, or five times. Even if they catch each show one time, it's still a significant savings for them to become a Member.

Is there no limit to the number of times someone can attend? Could someone attend every performance of a show's run?

ZACH XP Members can attend as many shows as they'd like! I'd love to see someone try to make every performance!

What other benefits do monthly subscribers get?

Free Parking

10% off additional tickets, bar purchases, & merchandise

A special gift on your birthday month

Invitations to members-only events

Discounts at surrounding bars and restaurants

Anything else audiences should know about the Zach XP subscription?

We often hear from people "I love going to see shows at ZACH, I just forget that I can do that on a random Tuesday night". Something I love about ZACH XP is that it takes the work of thinking in advance about tickets, missing out on the best prices, etc... Your membership covers your ticket, so you can just show up and book your seat for free. And bring your friends who get a discount because they're with you! It makes it easier to fill up your social calendar with less thought and planning.

When and what are you re-opening with?

Our first production of the season is Into the Woods which will be reimagined in completely unexpected ways. The story remains the same, but the context of 2020 - the pandemic, Black Lives Matter, panic-buying of goods, lockdown - all of the giants we wrestled over the past 18 months... they are all present in the story-telling as well. But the message remains the same: no one is alone, and there is light at the end of the tunnel. It will be outdoors in the round.

What are you most looking forward to?

A Christmas Carol is an absolute Austin favorite and we weren't able to produce it last year. Performances begin in November, and it will be our first time back in our beautiful Topfer Theatre. It is going to be a huge celebration and I can't wait to be in that audience.

How have you remained engaged with your audience about the return to the stage?

Absolutely. We've stayed in touch with our audiences through email, social media, and many of them attended our Songs Under the Stars concerts. I don't know who is more excited about launching our new season - us or them!

How can audience members learn more and stay up to date?

Get all of the info about our upcoming season, camps and classes and more at zachtheatre.org, or follow us on all socials at @zachtheatre.


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