Monday, January 11, 2010

Is Your Story Big Enough?


Contributed by guest blogger of the week, Lanie Zipoy.

In Michael Margolis’s new book Believe Me: Why Your Vision, Brand, and Leadership Need a Bigger Story, he asks, “Is your story big enough?” Last night, the entrepreneur and executive coach led a thought-provoking discussion at the Off-Off-Broadway Community Dish, a consortium of independent theatre companies with a great listserv and delicious bi-monthly meetings. The organization gets its name from the mouth-watering potluck cooked by its members (Marielle Duke’s broccoli and cheese crescent rolls were a big hit) and the accompanying discussion about awide range of issues affecting OOB. Founded in 2002 by Zachary Mannheimer, the group is now led by Boomerang Theatre Company’s Artistic Director Tim Errickson and Amanda Feldman, Lark Play Development Center’s General Manager.

Throughout the evening, Margolis asked the million-dollar questions – ones that we as a community need to diligently answer every day.

“What is Off-Off-Broadway’s cultural contribution?”
Every one of the 12 members in attendance had a different answer to this question. Our contributions are as varied and diverse as the hundreds of OOB companies currently producing work in the city. As a community, we also make a significant financial impact on the city, offering jobs and supporting local businesses.

Gideon Productions’ Sean Williams, however, observed that OOB companies’ strength lies in the singularity of vision, each company’s ability to push its worldview.

“What is the bigger story?”
Margolis emphasized that OOB as a community and individual companies must develop their brands, the unique stories that connect the community and the companies to audiences. He suggested keeping three factors in mind:
(1) The Past – the origins of your company/community. How, why and when was your company/community formed?
(2) The Present – the ethos of the company/community. What are the qualities and ideas your company/community stands for?
(3) The Future – the cultural contribution of the company/community. What value does your company/community add tothe world?

“What is the contract with your audience?”
Margolis stressed that audiences today want authenticity and intimacy. Companies should be open and honest in their marketing efforts and represent productions with integrity. Also, OOB’s smaller venues may be assets when reaching potential audience members. The immediacy of the stage is a selling point, offering a dynamic experience for the audience.

I was really struck by the audience portion of the discussion. I firmly believe that the greatest story ever told is not the one you’ll see on stage. Instead, it is the 40-word blurb you write about your production, the marketing image you choose to represent your upcoming show, and the connection you make with the most important person to any theatrical endeavor: the audience member.

I have the greatest respect for playwrights, directors,actors, and designers as well as the beautiful alchemy of creating a theatrical piece. Theatre, however, is most magical when it is a call and response between the artists and the audience.

In 2010, I challenge us to tell a bigger story, to build our individual and collective audience bases, and to strengthen our community’s identity. I would love to hear any ideas about how we can accomplish these goals.

For more information on Michael Margolis, visit, and to join the Off-Off-Broadway Community Dish, check out


1 comment:

  1. Lanie,

    Thanks for the awesome recap of last night's discussion. I too was struck by the collective voices in the group, and how Off-Off Broadway represents the soul of NYC theatre.

    Making it easier for the public to recognize the distinction of what it means to be Off-Off Broadway - there's an opportunity to further brand the genre and its cultural contribution. Especially how much creative freedom and risk-taking OOB productions can take with the narrative form, and in turn audience engagement.

    BTW - your readers can download a free digital copy of my storytelling manifesto for change-makers by visiting