Coming Out Of The Woods

I haven’t always been really good at publicizing the shows I’m in, and that has a lot to do with the fact that I’m not always convinced that I’ve got enough control over the show to believe that it will be really good. That sucks of me, I know, I really ought to push like crazy…

Except I’m not sure the pushing gets anything. I get a lot of invitations to shows in my inbox and, clearly, I’m not going to plays right now, I’ve got a baby and my life from about 6:15 to 8:45 is pretty complicated. I mean, I’m sure we could get a babysitter, but we just kinda don’t want to. We want to be here with him while we can. But, even before I had the built-in excuse, an email, especially from a stranger, never once convinced me to go see a play.

There are a bunch of different things that will get me there, including personal relationships, possible great writing, cool ideas, awesome production, possible hot people wearing next to nothing… that kind of thing. But I think the thing that gets me in more than anything else is being invested in the producers and actors of a play.

I mean, it’s weird. Sirius radio has a Sinatra Channel, but it doesn’t play songs written by Frank Sinatra. He never wrote anything. It’s songs that tell us something about who he was, and who the people were surrounding him. When you go see the new Harrison Ford movie… I think the point there is self-evident.

We don’t do this with plays at all. I mean, obviously, we do it once you get on the Broadway level, half of what goes on in midtown involves at least one little bit of stunt casting, but we don’t do it where we make theater. Not enough.

There’s a late night show with some dude hosting it, I think it’s called “Late Night With Byron Allen”, but that might be the wrong title and wrong host, and please forgive me if it is, but it is essentially a sycophantic bit of craziness where television and movie stars are interviewed and they come across as charming and good looking, and the hope is that if enough people see these little things, then when War Of The Worlds Part Two comes out, everyone will flock to the theaters.

How can we do that?

How can those of us making plays in tiny theaters in New York get people to be invested in the personalities of these people? I mean, the steady stream of theater professionals who move into film and TV is pretty purely about money, I have to imagine, because the taped jobs aren’t any easier and they’re way less rewarding, so how can we keep everyone here?

I don’t have an answer, but I wonder if it isn’t a several step process.

1) Online video marketing and graphic marketing. By which I mean, video, audio and pictures from rehearsal, from breaks in rehearsal, from the production meetings, from the venue meetings, etc. The magic of putting on a show is utterly infectious, every one of us fell in love with the *process* in high school as much or more than we fell in love with “Godspell” or “Annie Get Your Gun” or whatever.

There was a show that went up a little while ago called “The Adventures of Nervous Boy” and I absolutely loved this show. I adored it. And what’s more, I would have been THRILLED to watch the process of them putting this show together. The company is packed with awesome, smart, funny-as-hell, dedicated people who I would love to know better. Do I want more news about fucking Lindsey Lohan? I do not, I want an online video-blog that I can subscribe to that shows me what Nosedive Productions is doing.

2) Parties. Look, there’s a difference between the theater and TV/Movies, and that’s that theater people are more willing to be physically uncomfortable. If we want to fight with movies, we can either let people eat candy in big comfy chairs while they wait for Godot, or we can just accept that people who crave comfort are gonna watch TV first, and if the cultural tides carry them, they’ll go to a movie.

But people who like to stand around with a beer and crack wise? These are the asshole we want in our seats. What if there were three parties a year, big venue, open bar, not supporting anything except the small theater world in New York. Not a party for a *show*, but a party for the community. That way, if you liked Nervous Boy, you could hang out with James Comtois or if you liked Fitz and Wallows you can go up and talk to Micah Bucey.

Be forewarned, Micah is enchanting. He will steal your soul.

3) Post-show Community Continuity. Yes, we all love our castmates, we all hook up with our romantic leads, we all have dinner with the guy playing Falstaff, but when the show ends these relationships dissolve quickly. It’s impossible to maintain a personal connection because a) as actors we’re all busy all day and then we’re in rehearsal all night, and b) we’re now hooking up with the next romantic lead and having dinner with the guy playing Mercutio.

But blog-communities can hold people together. Reading and commenting on each other’s blogs can keep those groups together by giving them a common ground, and that ground can be theatrical musings. I don’t know how to have a clearing house for theater bloggers, but if there was a single site, hooked up with RSS feeds that covered blogs from small theater enthusiasts, and if this site allowed discussion and a way to rank the topics according to their importance and relevance…

It would be like Digg for the small theater world.

I should say, I keep saying “Small Theater” because downtown doesn’t mean anything, and I think there is also a real need to keep the community theaters in America in touch with one another. We’re producing under the radar in New York, and I know for a fact that places like the Iowa City Community Theater sells out a giant house for every run of the shows they do.

Small Theater should include everyone working on the fringes of the professional world. Whether they’re in New York or not even close. If one is to assume that cultural hegemony is a problem, then the best tool out there for respecting and dignifying the non-metropolitan point of view is this here series of tubes we call the internet.

I should say, the idea that New York disregards the rest of America seems strange to me because we, as small theater producers, don’t have the AUDIENCE to have a stranglehold on any culture. I’ve been producing plays for seven years now in New York, and the one show we set in New York (Fleet Week) did, in fact, make fun of southern racists, it’s true. But the show I’m most proud of (The Second String) is set in, ironically, North Carolina.

But you know what? Not that many people know either show. If you’re reading this, chances are you might know one of them, but only a handful of people know both. And that’s because we haven’t figured out how to make these small statements heard. We’ve got the internet, and we’ve got a lot of people in one place, but we haven’t made it happen yet.