Audience Building Twitter Chat
What tactics best attract passionate audiences for new plays?
Is it a shift in artistic programming? Online content about the new play process? Defeating the logistics issues that keep folks on the couch?
How do the answers change for different demographics?
How does live theatre build audiences when Life is our Biggest Competitor?
As a communications partner of the Wallace Foundation, TCG is pleased to share Wallace's valuable research on effective audience-building practices. To that end, on October 27 from 2 to 3pm ET, TCG hosted our first Twitter chat on audience building with three of Wallace Foundation's Building Audiences for Sustainability grant recipients: Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Goodman Theatre, and Steppenwolf Theatre Company.
Called Life is our Biggest Competitor, these three theatres engaged in conversation about their audience-building strategies currently supported by the Wallace Foundation. Staff members shared the discoveries, challenges, and victories thus far in a discussion that anyone can join through the hashtag #BuildingAudiences. Learn how these theatres are using research to more deeply understand their current and potential audiences, including important myth-busting about generational differences as well as useful tactics for developing passionate devotees to new plays.
Jimmy Freund (@SteppenwolfThtr)
Social Media Director & Audience Services Supervisor, Steppenwolf Theatre Company
Jimmy has worked with Steppenwolf Theatre since 1999. He began as an associate on the inbound phones in Audience Services, eventually working to become manager of the department. In 2014, Jimmy took on the additional responsibility of coordinating Steppenwolf’s efforts in the area of Social Networking. Jimmy has a B.A. in Fine Arts from Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri. He also holds a certificate in broadcasting from Illinois Media School.
Associate Director of Marketing and Research, Goodman Theatre
Jenny Gargaro, Associate Director of Marketing and Research, is starting her 7th season at Goodman Theatre after previous roles as Marketing Manager and Audience Development Coordinator. She always had a passion for arts marketing which lead her to graduate from Illinois State University with degrees in Theatre and Public Relations followed by roles at Apple Tree Theatre and Fox Valley Repertory. She has served as a guest lecturer in arts marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
Gabriela Jirasek (@gabba_hey)
Director of New Media, Goodman Theatre
Gabriela Jirasek is the Director of New Media at Goodman Theatre. She manages the Goodman’s website, digital strategy, email marketing and social media. Gabriela earned a BA in International Relations and Spanish from Tufts University. She was an elected member of the Americans for the Arts Emerging Leaders Council from 2010-2011, advising AFTA and serving as Chair of the Technology Committee. Previously she was the Marketing and New Media Associate for the Chicago Humanities Festival (CHF). In 2010 she received the Joyce Foundation’s Professional Development Fellowship for Emerging Leaders of Color from the Great Lakes Region.
Emily Kent (@emkent)
Associate Director of Marketing, Denver Center for the Performing Arts
Emily Kent is the Associate Director of Marketing for the Theatre Company and Off-Center programming lines at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, where she spearheads and contributes to marketing initiatives for a wide variety of productions, including classics, musicals, new plays, and out-of-the box / out-of-the-theatre new and immersive work. Prior to joining the DCPA, she was the Director of Marketing at St. Ann’s Warehouse and Marketing Associate at Playwrights Horizons in NYC. Emily is a graduate of the University of Evansville Theatre Management program.
Director of Marketing and Public Relations, Goodman Theatre
Lori A. Kleinerman, Director of Marketing and Public Relations for Goodman Theatre since 2005, is part of Goodman’s senior management team. Ms. Kleinerman oversees all efforts related to branding the Theatre and generating earned revenue through ticket and subscription sales. Her areas of responsibility include: marketing, the website/digital marketing and e-communications, advertising, partnerships, group sales, research, graphic design and telemarketing. She oversees a staff of 17 theater professionals. Formerly Director of Marketing and Communications at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (HSDC), Ms. Kleinerman has 15 years of experience in not-for-profit and for-profit marketing and communications. Under her direction, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago re-branded its organization; celebrated a highly public 25th anniversary; created a series of new audience development programs; and achieved record-breaking ticket sales and revenue. While at HSDC, she also served as Project Director for the Chicago Community Trust’s “Dance Initiative” project, designed to increase the profile and profitability of the Chicago dance community. Prior to joining HSDC in 2001, Ms. Kleinerman was employed as Director of Marketing and Public Relations at the Museum of Contemporary Art. She was hired at the MCA in 1996 to brand and launch the new museum, build the museum’s first marketing department, and oversee membership and public relations. While at the MCA, she successfully launched the inaugural membership program, pioneered the still-popular event “First Fridays,” and directed the museum’s five year, $1.25 million Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest audience development grant to cultivate the college student market. Ms. Kleinerman launched her career working for J. Walter Thompson advertising agency, had her own consulting firm and worked as an advertising and branding manager for what is now Advocate Healthcare.
Director of New Play Development, Goodman Theatre
Tanya Palmer is the director of new play development at Goodman Theatre, where she coordinates New Stages, the theater’s new play program, and has served as the production dramaturg on a number of plays including the world premieres of Vigils by Noah Haidle, Magnolia by Regina Taylor, The Long Red Road by Brett C. Leonard and the Pulitzer Prize–winning Ruined by Lynn Nottage. Prior to her arrival in Chicago, she served as the director of new play development at Actors Theatre of Louisville, where she led the reading and selection process for the Humana Festival of New American Plays. She is the co-editor, with Amy Wegener and Adrien-Alice Hansel, of four collections of Humana Festival plays, published by Smith & Kraus, as well as two collections of 10-minute plays published by Samuel French. Originally from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, she holds an MFA in playwriting from York University in Toronto.
August Schulenburg (@GusSchulenburg)
Director of Communications & Community Engagement, Theatre Communications Group
Gus supports TCG's communications efforts, convening programming, and Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Initiative. Highlights from his work with TCG include project managing SHINSAI: Theaters for Japan, curating the Artistic Innovation and Financial Adapation arcs at the 2013 National Conference in Dallas, co-creating the At the Intersections arc at the 2015 National Conference in Dallas, contributing to TCG's Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Institute and internal Workgroup, and collaborating on TCG Circle blog salons with Chantal Bilodeua, Jacqueline E. Lawton, Caridad Svich, and others. He serves as co-board preseident for the Network of Ensemble Theaters, and is a founding Creative Partner of Flux Theatre Ensemble. Gus' recent work with Flux includes co-producing #SpeakUp, a night of plays against street harassment; Breathe Free, an immigrant rights theatre action in support of New Sanctuary Coalition, and the launch of Flux's Living Ticket and Open Book programs.
John Zinn (@SteppenwolfThtr)
Director of Marketing & Communications, Steppenwolf Theatre Company
John is currently Director of Marketing & Communications at Steppenwolf Theatre Company. He has been at Steppenwolf for ten years, where he has worked in both the marketing and artistic departments, and acted as liaison between the two. He is responsible for marketing, public relations, creative imagery and audience services, and serves as a co-producer of Steppenwolf’s new multi-genre performance series LookOut. He has been involved in the previous Wallace Foundation grant work at Steppenwolf, as well as the Duke Foundation work, which launched the theatre’s successful and influential Red Card program for millennial theatregoers. Previously, John has worked for Victory Gardens Theatre, Broadway In Chicago, Collaboraction and he is an adjunct professor in arts marketing at DePaul University, where he has an MFA from Theater School at DePaul.
Salma S. Zohdi (@SalmaZohdi)
Communications Associate, Theatre Communications Group
Salma is currently the Communication Associate at Theater Communications Group. She is a recent Columbia University Dramaturgy MFA graduate and a recipient of two international fellowship awards from the American Association for University Women. She also holds a MA in English and Comparative Literature from the American University in Cairo. When she lived in Egypt, she was an Assistant Director in the Egyptian feature film Al Kobar (trans: The Hotshots), she then joined Alumni Community Theatre as their PR & Marketing Manager. She worked as a producer, teaching artist, stage manager, playwright, dramaturg, translator, and assistant director. Highlights from her work in Egypt include The Marriage Proposal, Jack or the Submission, The Dinosaur Play, ART, Waiting for Godot, and El Gaw Gameel (trans: The Weather is Nice). Her credits at Columbia University include The Next War, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, UNDROWN’D, and The Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer. Over the summer of 2015, her original play, Disposable Promises, was staged at Columbia University. In 2016, she got her first off-Broadway credit as the Arabic translator for Classical Stage Company's production of Nathan the Wise.
The audience-building projects:
Denver Center Theatre Company: Under the decade-long leadership of Artistic Director Kent Thompson, the resident Theater Company of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts has placed a premium on commissioning new work. Since its founding in 1979, the company has introduced 40 new plays and premiered more than half of them as full productions. In 2010, the company also launched a theatrical testing center, Off-Center @ the Jones, with an aim to find new approaches to attracting 18-34 year olds – Denver’s fastest growing population. As part of the Wallace initiative, the company plans to learn more about the millennial generation through these Off-Center activities and audience research, before creating a new mainstage production that will serve as a model for millennial-focused programming.
Goodman Theatre: The Goodman Theatre, founded in 1925, has produced more than 60 world premieres over the past 15 seasons, including David Mamet’s American Buffalo in 1975. One of Goodman’s distinctive features is its “artistic collective," a group of nine playwrights, directors and actors who define the Theatre’s artistic direction. As part of the Wallace initiative, the company will look to increase its audience for new works. Building on those patrons who have shown some interest, Goodman will experiment with creating stronger bonds with this target audience by providing greater access to playwrights and artists and populating the theater’s website with video and related content.
Steppenwolf Theatre Company: is the nation’s premier ensemble theater—redefining the landscape of acting and performance. Formed by a collective of actors in 1976, the ensemble has grown to 46 members who represent a remarkable cross-section of actors, directors and playwrights. Steppenwolf produces hundreds of performances and events annually in its three spaces: the 515-seat Downstairs Theatre, the 299-seat Upstairs Theatre and the 80-seat 1700 Theatre. Artistic programing includes a seven-play Season; a two-play Steppenwolf for Young Adults season; Visiting Company engagements; and LookOut, a multi-genre performances series. Additional education initiatives include the nationally recognized work of Steppenwolf for Young Adults, which engages 14,000 participants annually from Chicago’s diverse communities; the esteemed School at Steppenwolf; and Professional Leadership Programs for arts administration training. Steppenwolf’s own Front Bar: Coffee and Drinks serves coffee, cocktails and a menu curated in partnership with the Boka Restaurant Group day and night. While firmly grounded in the Chicago community, nearly 40 original Steppenwolf productions have enjoyed success both nationally and internationally, including Broadway, Off-Broadway, London, Sydney, Galway and Dublin. Anna D. Shapiro is the Artistic Director and David Schmitz is the Executive Director. A participant in the Wallace Excellence Award initiative (2008-2012), Steppenwolf was highly effective in deepening relationships with its audience by developing an ongoing conversation about the work on stage, documented in the 2011 Wallace case study Building Deeper Relationships: How Steppenwolf Theatre Company Is Turning Single-Ticket Buyers Into Repeat Visitors. In this current Wallace funded initiative, the theatre looks to engage Generation X (those born between 1965 and 1979). For Steppenwolf to sustain a robust multigenerational audience, it is essential for us to strengthen our underrepresented Generation X population – bridging the gap between our maturing Millennials and aging Baby Boomer audiences. As Gen X is a much smaller demographic group than the Baby Boomer generation, they will need to be engaged at an even higher rate just to make up for the declines in Baby Boomer attendance over time. Learning how to engage Generation X will be essential for arts and culture and our economy as a whole.
Wallace Foundation's Building Audiences for Sustainability is a multi-year, $52-million initiative aimed at developing practical insights into how arts organizations can successfully expand their audiences. Building on learnings from the Foundation’s previous initiative, the Wallace Excellence Awards, Building Audiences for Sustainability grants awards to performing arts organization to design and implement programs to attract new audiences while retaining current ones, measuring whether and how this contributes to their overall financial health. Representing a spectrum of organizations – from dance and opera companies to orchestras, theaters, and multidisciplinary arts institutions – the selected partners will receive financial and technical support from the foundation to develop, implement and learn from their audience-building work. The evidence gathered from these organizations will be documented and analyzed by an independent team of researchers, providing valuable insights, ideas and information for the entire field. A selection of resources, including the Foundation’s studies on audience building strategies and a guide to audience research, are available for free download on the Wallace Website.