The Self Production Series with Anna Nicholas: #11 Publicity…

#11. Publicity…. or getting those B.I.S. (butts in seats)

by Guest Blogger Anna Nicholas

You’re probably thinking: Shouldn’t Anna be ready to start rehearsing this play already? And the answer is: Yes. In fact we are in rehearsals. But before they began, the publicity wheels had started to turn, so we’re going back.

Planning on how you’ll get the word out about your show needs to begin early—before casting and before you even secure your theatre; about the same time as you decide to self-produce your play. If you can afford to pay a professional, that person would be called the publicist. And if you think you’ll be able to get the best critics to see your show and have a sold-out run without one, I hope you’ll finish reading this post before you make your decision.

Getting audiences is NOT easy—not even for the bigger “better” theatres. If you have a star—and I mean STAR—in your cast, that’s one thing. But I see promotional material all the time saying something like: “A New Play by Elena T. Ruggiero,” (who?) “Starring Robert Urianisk” (who?) “as seen on Little Blip Theory, Cosmic Family… “ The point is, theatres try to pump up non-stars to star status hoping you’ll come see their shows. It sometimes works, by the way, so kudos for effort. But unless you have a real star in your show, I think you’re going to need help getting your show reviewed (hopefully positively) so you can use those reviews to pull in audiences. If your show gets some great notices from the more important media outlets—even without a star—you’ll most likely be able to put “butts in seats” (B.I.S.).

In Los Angeles, there are only a handful of publicists considered “worth it” in small theatre. That’s because their fees are a good portion of your budget. Our publicist, Lucy Pollak charges about $3,000 but she was worth it. Lucy and I started talking about Villa Thrilla 6-8 months before we began casting. That was lucky for me because had it been 2 months out, she couldn’t have taken the job. As it was, she already had shows lined up for the same time frame. Some publicists, like some designers, can handle 2-4 shows at a time. But ask your prospective publicist how many other shows he/she will be working on concurrently with yours. There is a point at which she can no longer handle the needs of all her clients You definitely want to avoid your publicist having two openings on the same night.

Getting the press to notice you is huge and made easier by having a good, reputable publicist who has solid relationships with critics. If, however, you are lucky enough to have Cate Blanchett or Stephen Tobolowsky in your play, chances are you could draft a press release yourself and people would come.

Be realistic–how much effort do you want to put into selling your show?—this on top of rewriting during the rehearsal period, not to mention all your other production duties. Take off your playwright hat for a minute, and look at your play as a package. Would you–if you knew nothing about your show and knew no one in it nor who’d seen/liked it—select your show to see out of the hundreds of offerings on a given night? And that’s just theatre offerings. How many times have you said to yourself, “Ahhhh, I’ll just stay home and watch TV”? If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll likely realize you need help to make your show stand out somehow. That’s the publicist’s job.

Here’s a list of what a good theatre publicist will help you with:

  1. Brainstorm how to publicize your show and come up with a pitch or pitches to sell it to local and (when appropriate) national media outlets—TV, newspapers, online blogs, radio stations, magazines etc.;
  2. Assist and give input about actor and director choices, letting you know if any of your options have some cache or marketability in your area;
  3. Call key critics early, hoping to get them to calendar your opening night. Your publicist may not be able to get a certain critic to come, but she’ll at least be able to get that person on the phone;
  4. Draft your press release and disseminate to any and all critics and media outlets. Then follow up by phone and email;
  5. Arrange for a production still photographer to shoot a dress rehearsal, get those photos out to media;
  6. Help plan and hype opening night and opening night party;
  7. Choosing graphics and advertising buys—online and in trades and local papers;
  8. Get you, your cast or members of your team interviews—online, on radio, TV and trades;
  9. Put press kits together to give to critics when they arrive to see your show;
  10. Coordinate with your ticketing services and house manager to ensure when critics reserve seats (for free) those seats are booked out and not subsequently sold;
  11. Assist with social media promotion. Lucy was not particularly savvy in this area but our talented Associate Producer, Jerusha Aimee Liu was. Jerusha built the Villa Thrilla website, Tweeted and also Facebooked for the show. This is becoming more and more important as social media becomes more prevalent and accepted.

As mentioned in a previous post, Villa Thrilla, was hampered by several factors in getting audiences: We had no stars nor did we have a recognizable name for the writer, producer or director so the show was a hard sell. Nor could we get anyone to review the show on opening night; perhaps because 16 other shows opened in LA on the same evening. Realistically, though—had there been only 8, we still would have been way down any critic’s priority list. There’s so much good theatre to choose from here. Even after opening, we had a hard time getting certain critics to in. The top ones, the most trusted ones, never came.

And as the reviews we did get came in, though most were very good, they did not, unfortunately, carry much weight. See anyone can start a website and call himself a critic. We also had one really bad review from a recognizable website/blog. This is my sour grapes story but I knew we were in trouble when I saw a particular man enter the theatre one day and was told he was a critic. He truly was among the most miserable looking people I’ve ever seen. Scowling, angry at the world—or perhaps just angry with his boss for sending to see our no-name play on a lovely Sunday afternoon. What a perfect choice to review a farce! Not. There was no way—if this guy’s face was any indication—that he would find anything positive to say. And he didn’t!

So, to sum up: If you’re going to self-produce your show—given all the work that entails—you probably want people to see it. Before you get too far into it, assess how difficult it will be to get audiences, bearing in mind things like the appeal of your subject matter/cast, location of your theatre, parking and even the local restaurants. Do you want to spend time promoting your show in addition to everything else you’re doing? If no, think about hiring a publicist. If, on the other hand, you think you can get butts in seats with no help from a professional, more power to you. May you fill your house every night with enthusiastic audiences!

Next Post:  Next time is compromise/collaboration I swear!

Happy 5th Anniversary LA FPI Blog!

by Robin Byrd

Today is the 5th Anniversary for the LA FPI Blog.

My excitement over the diverse voices that frequent this blog never wanes.  Pick a few bloggers and read their articles.  Tell me what you think.

  1. Jessica Abrams (past blogger)
  2. Tiffany Antone
  3. Erica Bennett
  4. Nancy Beverly (past blogger)
  5. Jenn Bobiwash
  6. Andie Bottrell
  7. Robin Byrd
  8. Korama Danquah
  9. Kitty Felde
  10. Diane Grant
  11. Jen Huszcza (past blogger)
  12. Sara Israel (past blogger)
  13. Cindy Marie Jenkins (past blogger)
  14. Sue May (video blogger)
  15. Anna Nicholas (guest series blogger)
  16. Analyn Revilla
  17. Laura Shamas
  18. Madhuri Shekar
  19. Kimberly Shelby-Szyszko
  20. Cynthia Wands

 LAFPI Blog 3

 

 

2nd Annual SWAN Day Action Fest – A Success!

Saturday’s LA FPI SWAN Day Action Fest was packed!SwanLogo2

 

The City Garage Theatre is a lovely space.

Each reading was fantastic.  The talent in the room was magnetic -even the micro-reads which are done with minimal if any read-throughs prior to reading them in front of the audience were exciting!  Such FUN.

Thank you to everyone who made this event a success – you rock!

 

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Happy Support Women Artists Now Day!

Presented by Free Association Theatre with Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative, hosted by City Garage Theatre.

SWAN Day Action Fest 2015 It’s TODAY  —  SWAN Day Action Fest!

Come on out and celebrate with us!

Bring some pages and sign up for the micro-reads.

Calling all LA female playwrights
 (and screenwriters): Let’s read your work!
Bring 1 page for our Micro-Reads. 

Click Here for Guidelines.

View Action Fest Line Up Here.

Tomorrow is SWAN Day!!

Where: City Garage Theatre at Bergamot Arts Center, 2525 Michigan Ave., Building T1, Santa Monica, CA 90404

When: Tomorrow/almost today, Saturday, 28 March from 12 – 6 pm

What:  SWAN Day Action Fest!

 

 

SWAN Day Action Fest (Saturday, March 28th 2015): a Festival of Women Playwrights & Directors

 

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Action Fest line up:

 

BOX by Robin Byrd, directed by Julianne Homokay

Synopsis: Elpis and Pandora are sisters.  There has been a death in the family.  What if they could have one last chance before they have to seal the box?

Elpis: Shanel Moore
Pandora: Gayla Johnson
Mother: Marlynne F. Cooley

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THE PROPOSAL by Carolina Rojas Moretti, directed by Laura Steinroeder

Synopsis: Benny was lost before finding his True North, but can he stop himself from destroying the compass?

Benny: Andrew Loviska
North/Lily: Renee Ulloa-McDonald
South/Mother:  Melanie Alexander
East/Employee:  Daniel Coronel
West/Niki: Megan Kim

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THE MIXING BOWL by Leslie Hardy, directed by Gloria Iseli

Synopsis: Stephanie thinks her partner Alicia’s parents are simply coming for a visit.  She’s in for a surprise.  Sometimes the ingredients of our lives do not make for a great recipe.

ALICIA: Trace Taylor
STEPHANIE: Amy Stoch

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MANKIND by Beverly Andrews, directed by Alexandra Meda

Synopsis: New parents have a serious discussion by the river’s edge and reaffirm the people they really are.

Elizabeth: Kat Johnston
Mitchell: Eric Toms

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THE MISSING STAIRCASE by Morna Murphy Martell, directed by Lane Allison

Synopsis: The Staten Island Ferry passes Ellis Island. A strange man tells about a staircase there that changed his life. One woman knows the secret of the missing staircase.

Woman: Constance Ball
Girl: Nili Segal
Man: Dean Farell Bruggeman

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ILL INFORMED by Raegan Payne, directed by Courtney Anne Buchan

Synopsis: Owen is bad at stalking. Olivia is bad at living. It’s fortunate they are meeting.

Owen: Tim Stafford
Olivia: Kristina Drager  

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Micro-Reads Actors:  Dylan Quercia, Pauline Schantzer, Anna Simone Scott, Tippi Thomas, Harriet Fisher and Tinks Lovelace

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 Come join us this Saturday, 28 March 2015 from 12 – 6 pm at City Garage Theatre located in the Bergamot Station Arts Center
2525 Michigan Ave., Building T1, Santa Monica, CA 90404

For more info: http://lafpi.com/events
FB Event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/898010020244015/
If you tweet we’re @TheLAFPI; we’re also on Instagram @thelafpi.  #SWANDay #LAFPI.
Also connect with our hosts, @CityGarage (Neil LaBute’s Break of Noon opens April 3 http://www.citygarage.org/). 

Support Women Artists Now – SWAN Day Action Fest 2015

SWAN Day Action Fest 2015 Join us for our second SWAN Day Action Fest this Saturday, 28 March from 12 – 6 pm at City Garage Theatre!

http://lafpi.com/events/  Presented by Free Association Theatre with Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative, hosted by City Garage Theatre at

Bergamot Station Arts Center
2525 Michigan Ave., Building T1, Santa Monica, CA 90404
( off of Cloverfield Blvd., between Olympic Blvd. & 10 Freeway)

Free Parking in Bergamot Station Arts Center. The complex opens at 11 a.m. on Saturdays. SWAN Day Action Fest audiences are encouraged to arrive early, and come and go throughout the day to visit the many art galleries.

Hope to see you there!

Tornados…

by Robin Byrd

There was a tornado in California mid December – a strange occurrence this side of the Rockies.  Out of the ordinary; it made me think of home and growing up in the midwest in tornado country; it made me think of the sirens going off and the treks to the basement to wait them out.  I was suddenly in remembrance of “the house that built me.”  All the experiences my midwestern background has bestowed upon me that inform my world.  We are who we are because of our experiences.

I may have southern nuances that pepper my work but I am a midwestern writer with a midwestern sound – a sound I inherited from the region that grew my sentiments.  I understand the tornado and its winds and thunder and lightening.  I know there is safety in the eye of the storm.  I know that the quiet in the midst of a storm builds hope and expectation…  I know the sun comes out after and we behold brighter days.

I enjoy traveling home to rejuvenate myself and though, nothing remains the same, it is good to remember where one comes from in order to stay the course of where one wants to go and to continue on regardless of the tornados…

 

Harmony…

by Robin Byrd

Having gone through an entire year striving for harmony, I find myself in these last few days 1) very excited about the coming year and what it will bring, and 2) nearly undone by the journey thus far – nearly but not completely… It has been hard getting out of my old skin and becoming…more…but it has also been enlightening.

Harmony is a coming together, a joining together, unification, agreement, accord, synchronization…

Harmony enhances the melody. All I need to do is keep my strings tuned and know when to play second fiddle even though I can play first.

2014 has been a year of going deep, of following the rabbit down that rabbit hole and experiencing the entirety of wonderland. Forcing myself to go with the flow has taken me to new levels in my writing. I have finally shed the last of my inhibitions; usually less inhibited when writing poetry, I have seen my recent pieces come to the page in more exacting ways since I have decided to “write it like poetry”. Scary and exciting and liberating…

2015 hints at being a very good year…

May your 2015 bring you harmony and growth and prosperity…

San Marcos and the Conference that Can…Part IV: The Black and Latino Playwrights Conference

by Robin Byrd

 

The Texas State Black and Latino Playwrights Conference is in its 12th year.  Eugene Lee is the Artistic Director for the conference.  Mr. Lee is an established actor, director and writer.  I have admired his work as an actor for years.  A fellow LA FPIer, Laura Shamas, told me about this conference and although my play did not get in that year, 2012, it was a finalist which warranted a call from Mr. Lee.  To have someone actually get your story and be able to pick it apart and see things you didn’t know you wrote into the piece was wonderful.

I went to the conference this year because I was needing to be in the room with other artists at work.  I really wanted to see the process.  I am so thankful that I went.  I learned a lot, made some friends and shook whatever that thing was that was on me keeping me from my computer.  I am hoping this conference stays around for a very long time, its a great place to get things done.

One of the first things Eugene Lee said at the conference was that he had all male playwrights but it was not intentional.  What I found very interesting was that all three of the plays were female-centered and very good vehicles for female actresses and the honored playwright’s play was directed by a woman.  It was a very good vibe.   I believe this conference can be great and am hoping that next year, more theater artists show up like I did just to see what they are doing…

The Black and Latino Playwrights Conference was established to fill a void where the voices of Black and Latino playwrights can be heard, nurtured and celebrated.  The plays can be about whatever the playwright deems stage worthy; it’s the voice of that playwright this is most important to this conference.  It’s a place where student artists can become familiar with the other voices that make up American Theater.  In this vein, the most rewarding part of the conference is to hear those diverse voices, to see those playwrights at work at their craft, and to watch the students jump in fully committed to the scripts.  Eugene Lee has a vision for the Black and Latino Playwrights Conference that can change the way minorities are viewed in Theater; his generous nurturing of the artists is greatly appreciated.  And too, the generosity and foresight of Texas State University at San Marcos to seek out Mr. Lee to start such a conference is awesome.  Thank you, Texas State! Thank you, Eugene Lee!

Every culture, in this multicultural place we call America, deserves a seat at the table. It’s places like San Marcos and this conference that can… that make room and give sustenance to playwrights kicking against the pricks….

Associate Artistic Directors for the conference are Joe Luis Cedillo and Nadine Mozon.  Production Manager for the conference is Shannon Richey (AEA).

Black and Latino Playwrights Conference

 

Black and Latino Playwrights Conference

 

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