Saturday, May 31, 2014

Explorations in Technology

We've spent this month talking about technology on stage.  There are two productions running currently that epitomize this kind of exploration.  

Check out The Deepest Man by one of our favorite artists James Scruggs at 3LD. The New York Times says, "Given that the show comes from 3-Legged Dog — a company known for integrating performance, video and effects — it is unsurprising that the piece, loaded with abstraction and supernatural traces, is a visual marvel."

And Gyda Arber's FutureMate is a immersive experience that combines film, theater, and web-based storytelling. You can catch it at the Film Society at Lincoln Center on June 26th at 8PM.

Catch them while you can.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Technology Inspires Art

"The art challenges the technology, and the technology inspires the art."
                                        ~ John Lasseter

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Down & Dirty Guide to Using Hashtags

Twitter has become a very popular way to promote OOB productions, share ideas or insights and connect with other artists and theatre creators. The use of hashtags is a common practice that can help followers (and potential followers) search for specific topics or areas of interest, however they can sometimes be confusing. 

So, here is our 
Down & Dirty Guide to Using Hashtags:

  • Hashtags start with the "#" symbol followed by the word or phrase (no spaces) for example, #Knowledge  or  #KnowledgeIsPower
  • Hashtags can appear anywhere in the tweet; beginning, middle or end
  • Think of hashtags as key words or phrases that are relevant to your topic
  • Hashtags help you categorize tweets or search for similar tweets
  • Hashtags can help you contribute to an ongoing conversation. For example during the IT Awards ceremony we use #NYITAwards. Any tweet using that hashtag will be categorized together and will automatically be included in the our stream.
  • The use of hashtags is one of the ways "trending" statuses are determined. If a hashtag is very popular and used by many people, that topic is identified as trending.


Twitter has identified seven basic uses for hashtags:
  1. Promotion of products, events or activities
    "Our show opens tomorrow. Buy your tickets today! #IntrepidPlayers"
  2. Coordination of activities
    "Participants can get water on the corner of 34th & Broadway #CleanUpNY"
  3. Memes
    "Flat Maria Irene visits the set of Donkey #FlatIndie"
    or maybe
    "Hey Girl, Seen any good indie theatre lately? #SeanWilliams"
4.  Context
   "There are so many great companies working #Off-Off-Broadway #OOBRules"
5.  Recall
     "Rehearsal at 6PM #schedulechange"
    "There are 2 kinds of theatre, commercial theatre & theatre that matters. 
     We're here to celebrate theatre that matters." ~ Edward Albee #quote

7.  Contribute to a conversation


  • Do not over use hashtags. Best practices suggest only 2 hashtags per tweet
  • Do not use hashtags to spam. Make sure your hashtags are relevant to the topic
  • Only use a hashtag if it adds value to your tweet
  • Search for similar tags before creating your own
  • Clicking on a hashtag, shows you all the other tweets using that hashtag

Check out this great post Twitter Hashtags: Nonprofits Speak Up

#OOBRules   #HeahterShoutOut

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

If You Have a Smile

"If you have only one smile in you give it to the people you love."
                                             ~ Maya Angelou

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Incorporating Digital Media

It is not a new problem. Live performance; from dance to opera to theatre, struggles to grow and engage audiences. The question arises "how can live theatre attract an audience driven by on-demand, multi-channel, media?"

"Electronic and digital technologies have spawned an array of media, from 3-D movies to crowd-sourced video like YouTube to smartphones, that compete with the stage (and with other traditional media like books, and each other) for the audience’s finite attention."
                                                            ~ Craig Lambert, Harvard Magazine

Off-Off-Broadway was on the forefront of actively using social media as a promotional tool.
Building a social network online is now a major part of marketing plans for all internet savvy businesses. Digital media offers an easy and cost effective way to grow an audience.

 "Social media and other marketing tools should also be used more imaginatively (but no “tweet seats,’’ please) to communicate the unique excitement of live performance."
                                                            ~ Don Aucoin, Boston Globe

While we all agree that the arts can utilize digital media for promotional and even educational campaigns, incorporating these platforms into the artistic presentation itself is still a foreign concept to most theatre artists. Dexter Upshaw, Digital Media Manager for Harlem's Apollo Theater recently spoke at the 2014 TEDxBroadway. He argued that instead of chastising audience members for using digital devices, we should embrace what is now a social norm and look for ways to make virtual interaction a part of the performance.

The New York Neo-Furturists for example, often challenge their audience to tweet plays that can only be 140 characters. The best of these plays are then included in their weekly performance of Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind.

Many innovative productions are now inviting the audience to participate in the creative process by encouraging them to use their smartphones, digital cameras, social media, etc. during the performance. Engaging audiences through a medium that they already use enthusiastically changes the relationship between the performer and the audience and creates a unique and personal experience for each audience member.

"Digital Theatre" is a trend which is characterized by the coexistence of live performance and digital media that interact within the same presentation. Gyda Arber has been pioneering this interactive brand of theatre. Productions such as Suspicious Package and Red Cloud Rising utilize mp3 players preloaded with video and sound files to guide audience members through a production. Similarly Melanie Jones used synchronized mp3 players to allow her audience access to the inner thoughts of her character in Endure: A Run Woman Show.

We already see Digital Media Design credited in OOB playbills. Will these designers soon have a seat at regular production meetings to build social interaction into the creative process from the start?

Imagine going to see a production where selfies taken in the lobby while waiting for the house to open are reveled as family photos on the set. Or character asides - their inner thoughts - are texted to you during intense scenes. The possibilities are endless and exciting.

Granted there are productions where "tweet seats" are inappropriate and might disrupt the rest of the audience. However, "
on-demand, multi-channel, media" is really about creating personal, immediate experiences and ultimately that is what theatre artists do best. Using digital media as a tool to heighten that experience is a natural progression and it is not surprising that OOB is among the leaders of this trend.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Nature of Technology

"Technology isn't intrinsically good or bad. It's all in how you use it, like the death ray.
                                ~ Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Creating Immediacy Through Sound

Contributed by Melanie Jones

My solo work, ENDURE, was a site-specific dance/theater piece in which the audience (and me, the performer) wore headphones. We used synchronized iPods with a soundtrack of original text and a musical score composed by Sweden’s Christine Owman. The work was about one runner’s first marathon and the events in her life that brought her to the start line, and the audience followed the performer through public park space on what ended up being a 3 mile route. The technology served several purposes, not the least of which was letting me off the hook from speaking/projecting during this super-physical  outdoor piece in which I end up dancing and running between 4 and 5 miles per show.

But the major impact of the headphones, and one that would not have been possible without them, was the effect of hearing inside this runner’s mind: her thoughts, her story, her pace as she calculates how far she’s gone and how much is left. Since the iPods were synced, everyone heard the same thing at the same time, so we could create a world where movement, sound and the environment link up in surprising, funny and meaningful ways. Late in the play, the narrator speaks directly to the audience, urging them to keep going, while the performer looks each of them in the eye and hands them special, secret gifts.

The impact that had – both the sound directly in each audience member’s ears and my freedom to relate to each person individually – was a sense that the performance was theirs. It was, to a certain extent, a very private, personal experience for each person, even though all of us were moving through very public space.

This sense of immediacy became an obsession for me. It blurred and often dissolved the separation between audience and the work, which meant I was able to touch my audiences in a more intimate way. So when I started my most recent work, IN YOU. (AND YOU?) created in residence at BAX/Brooklyn Arts Exchange, I wanted to see if I could re-create that intimacy in a more traditional theatre setting. With headphones, you are immersed or contained in a world of sound. With IN YOU, we worked with surround sound, using five speakers to create that container around a seated audience. This gave us more flexibility in terms of manipulating where sound comes from and gave us greater control over when sound truly surrounded audiences and took them over.

I identify as a writer first and, if pushed, a mover second. Sound and sound technology wasn’t on my radar until 2011 when I figured out by accident that you can’t escape from sound. With sound and with the kind of technology that puts sound at the forefront of the experience, I get the kind of intimacy I’m going for. By penetrating my audience’s earholes.


Melanie Jones is a Canadian-born writer, performer and producer. She is a 2013-15 BAX/Brooklyn Arts Exchange Artist In Residence. She has written and performed three solo theater works including IN YOU. (AND YOU?) created at BAX and ENDURE: A RUN WOMAN SHOW, which was presented in London during the 2012 Olympic Games and as part of the 2013 Scotiabank Calgary Marathon. Jones was awarded 2012 NYIT (New York Innovative Theater) Awards for Solo Performance and Original Full-length Script and was shortlisted for the Brick Award at the 2012 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Her theatrical work has been presented in four countries and her work as a writer has taken her to Paris, Zambia, India and Haiti. Author of three published nonfiction books, Jones also created more than 50 episodes for CityTV, 55 videos for the LEAP PROJECT, an online course for distressed youth, and more than 25 stories for WAVES OF CHANGE, documenting the world water crisis. She was a 2013 TEDxCalgary speaker.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Meet the Flat Indies

We wanted to promote Indie Theatre with a social media campaign that would encourage participation by companies, productions, and audiences, while simultaneously educating the participants about Off-Off-Broadway history.  What we’ve come up with is (drumroll, please)… the “Flat Indies”.

We used the children’s book Flat Stanley as our inspiration. Flat Stanley is a child as thin as a piece of paper, which allowed him to be mailed to friends and family at various locations and have all kinds of wondrous adventures.

In 1994, a teacher in Ontario, Canada started the Flat Stanley Project. Students created their own Flat Stanleys and mailed them to relatives near and far. These relatives took photos with the Flat Stanley and returned them to the students who then tracked Stanley’s travels.

Our ‘Flat Indies’ are based on some of the most iconic artists of Off-Off-Broadway. You can download your favorite Flat Indie character, take it to the theatre, snap a photo and share it on social media. Or take a photo of a Flat Indie with your cast and crew.

These fun photos of people enjoying themselves at the theatre are shared, reposted, and tagged; and each time a photo is shared, information about your theatre and production is shared, too. Additionally audience members and artists learn about the Flat Indie characters they take with them to the theatre.  Don’t know who Judith Malina is? Or Ping Chong, or Richard Foreman? This is an easy and fun way to learn about these important artists.

We are hoping to make this a meme that can be passed on to artists and audiences throughout the city.

Want to participate?  Here’s how:

  • Download a Flat Indie character
  • Take it to the theatre and take a photo with you, your friends and the Flat Indie character
  • Share it on social media 
    • On Twitter and Instagram include #FlatIndie 
    • Post it to our Facebook Group
  • We will repost and share your photos
  • Check out the Flat Indie map
  • Do it all over again

  • Download a Flat Indie character
  • Take it to the theatre and take a photo with you, the cast and crew and the Flat Indie character
  • Keep it at the box office and encourage your audience member to snap photos while they wait for the house to open
  • Share the photos on social media   
    • On Twitter and Instagram include #FlatIndie   
    • Post it to our Facebook Group
  • We will repost and share your photos
  • Check out the Flat Indie map
  • Do it all over again

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @FlatIndie & Learn more about the Flat Indies!

Saturday, May 17, 2014


"Man is a slow, sloppy and brilliant thinker; the machine is fast, accurate and stupid."
                                                      ~William M. Kelly

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Game On: gamify the audience experience

Contributed by Gabe Zichermann

Gamification—or the use of gaming concepts to drive user engagement— is an integral part of the modern business landscape, with the majority of Fortune 500 companies already having implemented the technology in some shape or form. Smaller companies are turning to the technology in droves as well, and while their implementations may be different, the goal for all is to drive new customer acquisition, increase retention and return visits, grow revenues and foster loyalty. So, why can’t theater companies join the party and gamify the audience experience? They can, and are indeed beginning to, as seen by such companies like the Brick Theater in Brooklyn with their annual Game Play Festival, and it’s time the rest of the theater community also considers incorporating games and the variety of ways they would be able to do so.

First, it’s important to understand the fundamentals of gamification, which is most simply portrayed by the Three F’s: Feedback, Friends and Fun. These are the three things are seen in most every gamified application with sustained success, and they can be seen as the essence of what makes gamification so potent.
  • Feedback- the process of giving users information on how they’re doing.
  • Friends- creating meaningful interactions that feed a game-like system.
  • Fun- understanding the needs/desires of your particular audience, and providing them an intangible enjoyment when they participate in your game.
If you can bring Fun, Friends and Feedback to a theater experience, then you can create the power to change behavior.

So now the question is begged, how do we incorporate these principles into our production? You’re already producing an entire show, what more does the audience need to be engaged? Sadly, the answer is a lot. The current environment simply does not allow for people to be engaged for extended periods of time no matter what we are observing. Television, once the distraction from the rat race, can no longer hold people’s attention itself, with over 80% of people admitting to “second screening,” or divvying up their focus to multiple screens, be it smartphone, tablet, laptop, etc.

If TV can’t hold people’s attention for 22 minutes, how can the theater do it for 2 hours? The first step is to do away with the “NO PHONES” rule in the theater. Especially if you have a tool that could make that smartphone use productive. (For example, livecube is a new app designed specifically to increase audience engagement and increase an event’s social media footprint.) It’s assumed all phone usage is negative in a theater setting, but in the current cultural environment it is necessary to warm up to the idea of utilizing the power in the pocket of most every audience member.

You must also try to channel the time you do have with the audience more efficiently in order to keep their attention. This means more breaks with social games/activities, networking with other attendees and cast members, etc. You can also provide achievements for attendance to give the audience a sense of accomplishment that could help pave the way for another visit to the theater. A unique souvenir beyond a playbill can go a long way here.

For those who prefer traditional theater this may seem like you are loosening the grip on the essence of what a play is; the telling of a story, but it is important to remember that this isn’t a “Choose Your Own Adventure” situation. The audience still wants you to tell the story, they just want to be more centrally featured in it, and feel like it’s more relatable. The use of gamification tech, before and after the show, to get insights about what’s happening with the audience will help you bring those elements to the stage.

Loyalty is also of extreme importance. You can use gamification to drive affordable loyalty for theater goers, though you must consider carefully the behaviors you want. It’s probably unrealistic to expect an audience member to attend the same show 50 times, but going several times and inviting friends by driving word of mouth is a very realistic goal.

No matter the application, the goal is to engage the audience and make them feel like more of a part of the experience. I hope you might now see that it would be beneficial to at least begin the brainstorming process about what game applications could fit best for your company, and most importantly, for your audience.


Gabe Zichermann is the chair of GSummit where top gamification experts across industries gather to share knowledge and insight about customer & employee engagement and loyalty. He is also an author, highly rated public speaker and entrepreneur whose next book, The Gamification Revolution (McGraw Hill, 2013) looks at how leaders are leveraging gamification strategy to crush the competition.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Making the Live MORE Live

Matthew Austin, Co-founder of The Special Guests, a Bristol-based performance company identifies five ways in which technology can enhance live performance.

  • Collaboration
  • Making the Live more Live
  • Ambition
  • Audiences
  • Living Beyond the Moment

Peace and Quiet
Devised by: The Special Guests
Performed by: Matthew Austin, Nina Wyllie and Tara Walsh.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Mobile Impact 101

Contributed by Darian Rodriguez Heyman

There are 3.5 billion toothbrushes on the planet, but 4 billion cell phones.  And we’re addicted to these devices: 58% of smartphone users can’t go an hour without checking their phone, and 91% have it within arms reach 24/7.

But the question to the Off-Off-Broadway community remains, how can nonprofits and theatres harness the potential of the most popular tool in history to get more butts in seats and raise money?

The good news is, the party has already started. A typical nonprofit already sees 30% of their website traffic from mobile devices, and Google just released a study which found 25% of supporters discover nonprofits from their mobile device. This transition is exciting given that TechImpact discovered that mobile users are nearly twice as likely to share on social networks, and now most emails are opened on smartphones or tablets.

With smartphone sales overtaking regular feature phones for the first time last year, and mobile web traffic overtaking desktop usage this year, big change is afoot for nonprofits, and for anyone else with an online presence.

I recently led a webinar via 4Good regarding how exactly nonprofits (and theatres!) can leverage mobile for fundraising, marketing, advocacy, and programs. But I wanted to take this opportunity to share arguably the most important tool covered: the Mobile Matrix. If your theatre wants to harness the power of mobile, the key is planning for success, and it’s just this simple:

This tool was conceived by my new mobile startup, BetterWorld Wireless.  While working with our U.S. nonprofit customers, we realized that many had yet to realize that just like social media, mobile is a tool; it’s a means, not an end. The real question is, what do you want to use it for?

The Mobile Matrix simply lays out the possibilities. In a group meeting, talk through it and explore each cell.  For example, how can we use mobile to increase donations (i.e. Revenue from Donors), and how important is this for us, vs. using it to streamline operations (i.e. Efficiency with Clients)?  Simply put an “X” in your priority cells, or if you want a seat at the head of the class, rate each one 1-10 so you can sort through your options.

Form follows function: once you know what you want to use mobile for, then you can begin to devise a strategy, identify relevant tools, and move forward in a thoughtful, strategic way that maps to needed results, including fundraising targets. 

Whether it’s about growing revenue, increasing operational efficiencies and cutting cost, more effectively communicating with your constituents, or better serving clients, the key is to follow the great advice of T.E. Lawrence and, “Dream your dreams with open eyes, and make them come true.”

Check out the archived webinar if you want to learn more about TextToGive, Mobile Apps vs. Websites, staffing considerations, analytics, and other mobile fundraising opportunities.  BetterWorld Wireless is also about to kick off a four-part Mobile Impact webinar series via TechSoup, our launch partner, in May and June if you want to dive deeper—follow me on Twitter to stay tuned.

Finally, on the off chance you’re somehow wondering if the next generation of donors is mobile, the answer is a clear yes.  In fact, the average age for a first cell phone is now 13.  Mobile is the future, but it’s here today.  Now it’s up to you and your cause to take full advantage of the tremendous opportunities it represents- good hunting!


Darian Rodriguez Heyman is Co-Founder & Chief Development Officer of BetterWorld Wireless, the first company to apply TOMS Shoes' One for One model to mobile. In addition to his current efforts to promote mobile impact across the globe, he is a frequent keynote speaker. Building on his background as E.D. of Craigslist Foundation and Co-Founder of Social Media for Nonprofits, the only conference series devoted to social media for social good, he speaks about fundraising, social media strategy, and the future of philanthropy. Heyman is also the best-selling author of Nonprofit Management 101: A Complete and Practical Guide for Leaders and Professionals (Jossey-Bass) and previously started Beyond Interactive, one of the first digital advertising agencies.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Creative Possibilities

"This is perhaps the most beautiful time in human history; it is really pregnant with all kinds of creative possibilities made possible by science and technology which now constitute the slave of man - if man is not enslaved by it."
                                             ~Jonas Salk

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Technology and Live Performance

Does our ever expanding and changing technology make theatre obsolete?  How does live performance remain relevant in a society driven by virtual relationships and experiences. How do artists capture the imagination of an audience surrounded by on-demand, multi-platform media? These are questions that artists around the world have been asking for years.

While some institutions struggle to compete with modern technology, many artists are embracing it and are at the forefront of harnessing it. They are changing the paradigm and the questions being asked.

How can contemporary artists use technology to further evolve their art? How can modern devices help reach a broader audience? How can technical innovations change the relationship between the performer and the audience?

We have dedicated May to exploring technology in live performance, onstage, back stage and administratively. We have some great  contributors this month including:

Gabe Zichermann, Chair of GSummit
Darian Rodriquez Heyman, Co-Founder & Chief Development Officer of BetterWorld Wirless
Ryan Holsopple, Artistic Director of 31Down
Nick Micozzi, Executive Director of the Innovative Theatre Foundation
and more...

Monday, May 5, 2014

Archiving Wrap-Up

We have had a fantastic month exploring theatre archives, why they are important, how they are used and some tips and tricks when starting your own.

We want to thank our amazing guest bloggers for their posts.

An incredible interview with Ozzie Rodriguez from La Mama garnered several in-depth posts:

We also shared the Rules of Archiving

And we want to thank Robert Patrick for creating the Caffe Cino Photo Archive and for giving us a quote.

We look forward to seeing all of your archives and remind you to contribute information for the Theatre World v70 2013-2014 edition.

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Rules of Archiving

Setting up a company archive may seem a daunting task but taking it one item, one production, one season at a time will make it more manageable. Set up an infrastructure from the outset for the collection of the data during the process and then create time in the schedule and/or after the production closes to tie up any loose ends.

As a reminder, here are our RULES OF ARCHIVING:

  1. Identify Early
  2. Identify Thoroughly
  3. Save the Original
  4. What to Keep
  5. Be Consistent
  6. Consider your Storage & Preservation Materials
  7. Be Persistent
  8. Share

Having an archive makes retrieving and sharing information much easier. It creates a history for your company, demonstrates the evolution of your work and contributes to the fabric of the community as a whole.

And we want to thank Arminda Thomas for sharing the American Theatre Archive Projects' archiving manual. It is a fantastic source.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Eighth Rule of Archiving: Share

There are lots of internal reasons to create and maintain an archive. However, sharing your archive can be so much more fulfilling. Sharing the history and details of your work can be a lot of fun, gratifying and rewarding.

We don't all have a gallery space where our archive can be displayed. Do what you can do, when you can do it. Create a page on your website or create a blog where you highlight a different piece every month or create a small display that is placed at your box office and tells the story of one of your previous productions.

Let your light shine.