Case Study Follow-Up Report

Building on the original 2013 case studies, which were based on audience engagement and community development findings of AMS Planning & Research, this follow-up report by writer Ben Pesner re-visits seven of the eight original not-for-profit theatres studied and includes a mini-report on two additional organizations selected by TCG: Hattiloo Theatre in Memphis, TN, and Trinity Repertory Company with Spectrum Theatre Ensemble in Providence, RI.

Executive summary

TCG's Audience (R)Evolution program continues its efforts to explore successful audience engagement and community development models with the Case Study Follow-Up Report.

The Executive Summary presents a snapshot of what's to come in the Follow-Up Report and introduces the subjects of two new case studies with key learnings. In total, author Ben Pesner will review the engagement strategies of nine theatres across the U.S.


Case Study Follow-Up Report

It's been five years since AMS Planning & Research and Audience (R)Evolution's analysis of eight theatres. What has changed?

Author Ben Pesner gives a theatre-by-theatre look at the companies whose audience engagement and community development strategies were profiled in the original case studies, looking particularly at major updates to programming and lessons learned.

This portion of the report also includes a conclusion section with insights the author gained from updating the original profiles and adding the two new case studies.


Hattiloo Theatre

How Hattiloo develops programming and partners with local organizations to bring together the Memphis community, and the regional Black community in particular.

Strategy #1: Create more opportunities to give community members direct access to artists.

Strategy #2: Serve Black audiences in Memphis and beyond by producing work and civic conversation that speaks to and elevates voices from the Black community.

Strategy #3: Invite audiences to experience Hattiloo as a place for public discourse.

Strategy #4: Create a technical theatre program for local youth.


Trinity Repertory Company & Spectrum Theatre Ensemble

How Trinity Rep sought to more broadly engage neurodiverse communities within and beyond the Providence area, both as audience members and as theatre-makers.

Strategy #1: Offer sensory-friendly performances of every mainstage production to welcome and serve neurodiverse audiences.

Strategy #2: Establish a nationally-recognized rating system that Trinity Rep and other theatre companies can use to guide and inform neurodiverse audiences.

Strategy #3: Empower and support adults who are on the Autism Spectrum and other neuroatypical individuals to create theatre.


Round One Case Studies

As part of AMS Planning & Research's Round One research efforts, AMS compiled data and prepared case studies on eight theatre companies that have incorporated audience engagement as a fundamental component of their service delivery and institutional mission. The companies were selected based on recommendations by TCG leadership, based, in part, on groups that were cited as “best practice” organizations by their peer companies. The theatres represent a variety of geographic locations and institutional sizes.

Executive summary

How a literature review, interviews, and audience surveys led to eight case studies highlighting best practices for audience engagement.

The Executive Summary includes snapshots of the eight case studies, AMS' Audience-Engagement Strategy Clusters, key field trends, shared succeses and challenges, and overall lessons learned.

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Arkansas Repertory Theatre

How The Rep strove to become a "Destination Theatre" through access, affinity, and partnerships.

Strategy #1: Provide audiences with direct access to actors, creative team members and directors in order to involve them more closely in the creative process.

Strategy #2: Create affinity events in conjunction with performances.

Strategy #3: Sell the entire house to a nonprofit partner on the first Tuesday of previews for use in its own cultivation and fundraising.


HERE Arts Center, New York, NY

How HERE used multiple points of creative engagement to keep people coming back for unconventional programming.

Strategy #1: Create multiple points of contact, real and virtual, between resident artists and the greater HERE community.

Strategy #2: Focus on building community partnerships, including co-production with other cultural organizations.

Strategy #3: Streamline the ticket-buying process.


Long Wharf Theatre, New Haven, CT

How Long Wharf Theatre used affordability, artist access, and community partnerships to build audiences.

Strategy #1: Create affordable price points to Long Wharf productions so that productions are open to all socioeconomic backgrounds.

Strategy #2: Increase participants' direct access to artists.

Stratgey #3: Partner with a nearby assisted living center.


Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland, OR

How OSF used community connectors to develop culturally specific audiences.

Strategy #1: Collaborate with the Migrant Education Program of the Southern Oregon Education Service District to help populate the OSF’s Cultural Connection Education Exchange.

Strategy #2: Develop relevant culturally specific programming for CultureFest.

Strategy #3: Enlist individuals from specific ethnic groups and organizational community connections to encourage attendance by their constituents at CultureFest.


Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Chicago, IL

How Steppenwolf engaged with talkbacks, Twitter, and teens to connect audiences to important conversations.

Strategy #1: Expand post-show opportunities for the public to interact with artists and other professionals around the theatre's sometimes controversial work.

Strategy #2: Support artistic work more effectively through multiple digital communication platforms.

Strategy #3: Work in partnership with other organizations to address critical teen-related issues.


The Theater Offensive, Boston, MA

How TTO used one-on-one connections, both on and offline to strengthen their community.

Strategy #1: Apply targeted phone banking using an audience-tracking and management database program.

Strategy #2: Use social media to engage and acquire young leaders and the next generation of audience members through TTO Treats, a social event.

Strategy #3: Implement gamification with social media networks to encourage audience members to share personal information.


Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Washington, DC

How Woolly's focus on connectivity and community partnership empowered civic discussion.

Strategy #1: Develop new social programs/initiatives in collaboration with community partners.

Strategy #2: Cultivate new audience members that mirror the current audience base and reach out to new audiences.

Strategy #3: Leverage group sales for partners.


Youth Speaks, San Francisco, CA

How Youth Speaks used digital platforms and community organizations to engage youth leaders .

Strategy #1: Develop enhanced digital platforms to redefine the way youth engage with Youth Speaks.

Strategy #2: Develop a community of organizations invested in spoken-word poetry as a means to engage youth.

Strategy #3: Engage and foster youth leaders.



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