Go Deeper

Other Blogs: Bringing Theater To Backyards, Free Shows And Other Audience-Making Ideas

Posted May 7th, 2013

The good folks at HowlRound keep posting interesting stuff!

Ben Gansky and Eric Powell Holm of The Wild Plan  recently posted a second in a series of articles about their and other companys’ novel approaches with engaging audiences and alternate performance structure. What begins with the idea of bringing the performance to the audience (a mantra being heard more and more), also includes some compelling ideas about shaping and creating shows, as well as some other insights. Let’s just say, like the previous sentence, the article meanders a bit, but always down paths that have good ideas for picking.

A Wild Plan show.

A Wild Plan show.

When setting out to plan their projects, The Wild Plan cohorts look to find that sweet spot where “freedom of artists” overlap with “access for audiences” can lead to innovative programming. For the summer of 2011, they went on a “backyard tour” of ” South Dakota, Minnesota, Illinois, Ohio, and Massachusetts, presenting three original pieces of theater in repertory. Our backyard audiences were families, friends, and neighbors. Each performance was an event where food was gathered from neighborhood kitchens, deluxe libations flowed, and conversations went on into the night.”

While mounting backyard performances may not be for everyone, I think what’s important is to be willing to make such leaps, as well as to ask, as Wild Pan does, what does a certain venue–backyard, rooftop, or otherwise–“want” from a performance. And all Wild Plan shows are free, with some inspired ideas on funding. “Apart from our Kickstarter campaign that first year, we crowdfunded by other, more low-tech means. The majority of communities that we visited appeared on our touring itinerary in the first place because of some personal connection from within our ensemble. If this noble individual was interested in the idea of backyard hosting The Wild Plan, we would send them a packet including information about the shows (and the cocktails) we would bring, the ensemble members, The Wild Plan’s mission, etc., along with the proposal: if the community could raise $500, The Wild Plan would come to town, with the stipulation that the performance would be open to the public and free to all comers.”

The company is big on free and point to how some much larger and more established theaters and companies are succeeding by using free and pay what you will models, which have increased audiences, profits, and individual giving.

One of the best insights they have, and certainly adaptable to organizations of all sizes, is too look at the entire process of a show–from initial announcement to post-performance party–as part of the show. “the audience’s experience begins when they first hear about the performance. It extends through their experiences finding out more, including logistical details about timing, location, and pricing. It continues between the point when they commit to attending and the point when they arrive. On arrival, the space they encounter is a part of their experience; the seating arrangement, the aesthetics of the environment, their welcome—all important parts of their encounter.”

READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE HERE for these and more inspiring insights.

–Said Johnson