Contributed by guest blogger of the week, Lanie Zipoy.
I looked over the Off-Off-Broadway demographics survey conducted by the Innovative Theatre Foundation, and saw that 93% of Off-Off Broadway practitioners live in New York state. Granted, that isn’t a mind-blowing statistic. I don’t think any of us in the community are surprised that the number is that high. Still, there is a golden opportunity here.
I’ve long said that Off-Off-Broadway theatre is made by New Yorkers for New Yorkers. While I’m grateful when a tourist checks out one of my shows (audience is audience!), I advocate that we focus our efforts on New Yorkers. Theatre for us, by us in our varied neighborhoods.
Most of us, at least according to the survey, are not native New Yorkers. We were drawn here for the art and culture as well as the opportunity to live cramped existences next to other people who also came to NYC for the art and culture. Let’s inspire our neighbors, the ones we know and the ones we don’t, to put the Wii down, leave the apartment and take in a show. After all, you can play your Wii in Memphis, Topeka, or Ft. Lauderdale, but you cannot see A Brief History of Murder or Erosion anywhere.
At the Off-Off-Broadway Community Dish meeting the other night, I threw out this idea that OOB theatre is for New Yorkers. I suggested we start an ‘I Heart NY’-style campaign for Off-Off-Broadway. Jenny Greeman of New Perspectives loved the idea, and fancies a viral video campaign, t-shirts, the works. I’m certainly game.
First, we need to define our world to New Yorkers. Let’s figure out ways to make our work analogous to our fellow New Yorkers who aren’t artsmakers.
A friend of mine, who works for one of the banks that received so much government money, attended a show with me a little while ago, and when I told him everything that went into a production, he was impressed. “You’re mini-entrepreneurs,” he observed with respect. Yes, we make things happen. We turn bare stages into a beautiful (or in some cases not-so-beautiful) sets, and bring worlds to life. Now that he understands all the effort it takes to mount a production, he’s even more of a theater fan. We had dinner last night, and he rattled off all of the productions he’d seen in the last few months.
Next, let’s meet with Jenny Greeman. T-shirts, viral videos and more are needed to brand what we do. Other ideas are certainly welcome. I think we have an opportunity here. Who’s with me and Jenny?