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BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Lorraine Treanor

Read on to see how Lorraine Treanor came to be the “Queen” of DC theatre.

BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Lorraine Treanor
Lorraine Treanor

For the past fourteen years DC Theatre Scene has been the place to go locally to find out what's what in the DC theatre community. Its Publisher and Editor Lorraine Treanor recently announced the site would stop publishing fresh content on December 31st and, with that, the DMV loses its liveliest local theatre site.

It takes a lot of work to keep a website like DC Theatre Scene going. You have to maintain the excellence that readers have come to expect over the years. This includes editing all the reviews and features. Read on to see how Lorraine came to be the "Queen" of DC theatre.

There is sometimes a sense of competition among the local websites because everyone is basically fighting for the same audience to read their content. When I wrote for a local DC area theatre site, I never considered Lorraine to be a competitor. She is and always will be a colleague.

After fourteen years, this champion of our community deserves a well needed rest but before she leaves us, I thought it would be great to turn the tables and interview her for a change.

Thank you, Lorraine, for providing us a place to locally go to get our theatre fix. Thank you for never compromising the way your content was presented to us. We are forever grateful.

Did you go to school for journalism?

Almost. I planned to be an English major but seeing Elaine Stritch in Sail Away at the Colonial Theatre in Boston stopped me. I walked across the Boston common to Emerson College and soon after became a theatre major there.

Had you been working in theatre before coming to DC Theatre Scene?

Yes. In Chicago I produced theatre, cabaret and music festivals. In the sense that a producer's job is to bring something into existence that wouldn't have otherwise been, you might say I'm still producing for DCTS and the special projects we've done. And I still count the house, wonder at the cost of a special effect and listen to the audience's responses as if I had money in the show.

BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Lorraine Treanor
A 2008 homepage from DC Theatre Scene. Photo courtesy of the artist.

How did you get the head position at DC Theatre Scene from the previous publisher?

Long story made short. I was at a Journeyman Theatre production when the A.D. introduced me to Ronnie Ruff. After the show, we went to a nearby IHOP, and talked, literally until the sun came up, about what theatre meant to us. I came on soon after, doing some marketing and editing. And my husband Tim not only reviewed that show, but came on as a writer. I think he was one of 6 writers for DC Theatre Reviews. By the time Ronnie fell in love and moved to Texas in January of 2008, we were DC Theatre Scene and had 21 writers.

In the beginning, what was the hardest part about running the website?

Turned out I was a natural at WordPress once Ronnie showed me around. So I'd say the hardest part was and is the enormity of being a one woman shop: recruiting, assigning and editing writers for reviews, and interviews, addressing the needs of advertisers, and answering the question I'd heard ever since moving to the DC area in 1995 - "Where is there any theatre?"

On average, in normal times, how many shows did you (meaning the site) review in a year?

We reviewed all professional theatre, some dance and opera and festivals including Capitol Fringe, always the biggest challenge of the year. For example, in 2019, we wrote 637 posts, which 471,210 people viewed for a total reads of 903,267.

A big part of running a theatre web site is dealing with publicists and other theatre types. As we all know, some of those folks can be "special" when it comes to some requests. What are some of your most memorable experiences from a publicist or other theatre types during your rein at DCTS?

I adore and am grateful to press people. The most special requests came, not from the press, but from readers. For out of town visitors, we offered a personalized concierge service. One Christmas, a woman asked for special seating and told us this would be her first Christmas in DC since her husband's death. We got her a house seat, and, struck by her sense of aloneness, and since we were seeing the show on the same night, offered to have her join us for pre-show dinner, which she accepted.

Typically, visitors were staying downtown, but one man wrote that four members of his family would be with him. I had just seen The Big Meal, and this family were of the same generations as the characters. I convinced him to take a cab north to Studio Theatre. The play, he wrote me after, opened up the family to intimate sharing with each other on the ride home. I realized the work of this site and every theatre site is to help audiences find work which will expand their humanity.

I would say the most unusual one was this. Soon after I started working with DC Theatre Reviews' founder, Ronnie Ruff in 2006, we were hit with a disaster. Our traffic plummeted and the reason was that Google removed our account from its search engine. The reason: Google had identified us as an adult site.
After battling his way through Google's structure, Ronnie finally learned the reason was that we had used the words Vagina Monologue in a headline. It took a few days before Ronnie won the war and our account was restored.

After fourteen years, what will you miss and not miss the most about running DC Theatre Scene?

I'm still thinking this through. I won't miss the hours spent working and worrying about the web site. On the other hand, I hope everyone knows that my direction of DC Theatre Scene has come from a place of love - for the playwrights, the theater makers, and, most of all, for our audience. I'll miss not having a place to express that and hope not to lose the friendships made.

Theatre Life logo designed by Kevin Laughon.

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