Monday, October 18, 2010

Tom Steps Out


Contributed by Guest Blogger of the week Tom Wojtunik.

My first blog post. Ever.

I’m the guy who still does not have a Facebook account. I think that “checking in,” so people know where I am at all times, is like something out of Brave New World. And I definitely do not Tweet. I am, admittedly, something of a social networking dinosaur. 

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not a technophobe. I communicate more through email than the phone. I read blogs and visit various websites, daily. Once upon a time I had a MySpace account, and before that I was even on Friendster. I have an iPhone!

So why am I so reluctant to join the social media craze? 

For one, I don’t really have the time. It’s hard enough to stay on top of email, and I suspect I would be easily sucked into the world of Facebook if I allowed myself. While I’m intrigued by the voyeuristic opportunities, there’s something to be said for learning about a person in a natural way, over time. I guess I actually enjoy the mystery in life.

From a professional standpoint, I’m uncomfortable with how much Facebook mixes the personal with the professional. Of course, theater is a business that thrives on that interconnectedness, and it’s actually one of my favorite things about it. Still, I think it’s possible to go too far.

An actor I once worked with used their Facebook status to comment on the progress of rehearsals, which I found appalling. The rehearsal room should be a sanctuary—a place where actors feel like they can safely experiment and fail. It’s completely unnerving to have a friend not involved with the production say, “Heard you had a bad run-thru last night.” Another time, while casting a large musical, I was told about the blog of an actor who was auditioning for me. He desperately wanted one of the lead roles, and had started a blog chain following his audition process, all the way through final callback. He ended up not getting the role, and he wrote about that, too. It was especially disturbing that he used names—my name, the theatre, even the name of the actor who ended up getting it. The tone of the posts was decidedly one of someone who had been “wronged.” To this day, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and I honestly couldn’t imagine ever hiring this actor.

I currently serve as the Artistic Director for the Astoria Performing Arts Center and last season, we brought on a Marketing Director, Dave Charest. I’ve known Dave for years—we went to college together and he’s one of my oldest friends. And he couldn’t disagree with me more. He sees the potential in social media, and is excellent at using it.

He’s constantly scheming new ways to get me to join Facebook, and we often butt heads about these issues. He has an incredible knowledge of the social networking arena, and he’s so connected to the theatre blogosphere and beyond, it’s intimidating. I’m positive he’ll find this blog post without me telling him about it, and chances are he’ll comment—so “Hi, David!”

Dave has been an invaluable addition to the APAC staff. Our audience base has grown, but more importantly, we’re communicating with them more effectively than we ever did. And even better than that, they’re communicating back with us. So I’ve seen firsthand the value in these newfangled marketing techniques.
So here’s to me Blogging, at least for the next week, and stepping out of my comfort zone! (Just don’t try to find me on Facebook.)



  1. Wow. What a surprise! I couldn't believe it when I saw you were going to be a guest blogger. I thought there must be some other Tom Wojtunik I don't know about.

    Re: your bad run in with the blogging actor, from my perspective it's a good thing. You're able to find out a bit about the type of people you could be working with ahead of time. Which means fewer headaches.

    Great post my friend. Glad you're stepping out of the comfort zone.

  2. Hi, Tom!
    Greetings from Canada's West Coast. I'm a self-admitted social media enthusiast, and I show folks in the arts how to use social media to market themselves (much like Mr. Charest, whom I met via Twitter, and am looking forward to meeting in person some day).
    For me, social media has opened so many doors, and connected me with so many really amazing people, some of whom I have had the joy and pleasure of meeting in real life.
    Social media, if it's done right, is all about creating a dialogue with your audience, and that is an invaluable marketing tool.
    Congratulations on your first blog post. I look forward to many more.

  3. Hi, Tom! Welcome to blogging! As a director, I feel your pain about the actor who was blogging, but am inclined to share Dave's perspective: with or without the blogosphere, that actor is one who tells tales out of school, and you found that out before having to roll through a sticky production with his indiscretion. I find the opportunities for engagement so far outweigh the distraction issues that social media has been revelatory for me in terms of both audiences and colleagues quite literally around the globe.

  4. I hear ya, Tom.

    I work as an artist/administrator in the theatre.

    Administratively, my job involves a lot of social media communication. I interact with other theatre companies, patrons, potential patrons, and other theatre professionals. That's when the conversation becomes lively and engaging. It's a blast. It really is. But that's usually "marketing Tim." I'm still me, but I'm not the "actor Tim."

    (Although I'm starting to wonder if I can really maintain such a distinction)

    As an actor, I have found some fascinating blogs about acting. I have my own (that I feel ambivalent about at best). It's great for tracking progress and keeps a wonderful interactive archive. That being said, people have to be careful. I'm so hesitant to mention names, locations, heck even names of shows on my blog.

    All the same, I've been able to enjoy a deeper network of fellow artists through social media. I find the more interesting actor/bloggers are ones who get a bit more vulnerable, but that can tread a very fine line of professionalism.

    People need to use more discretion. But I think the pros far outweigh the cons (with discretion).

    Twitter, especially, has been one of the most valuable resources I have grown to understand and use in the last year. That's the only way I was able to find this blog in the first place (thanks to Dave Charest).

    Ultimately, I understand the concerns you have. The rules and standards about social media are evolving and we're smack in the middle. It's a bit freaky and exciting at the same time.

  5. I find it ironic that the NYIT Twitter feed on the left side of my screen obscured some of the text from Tom's post...

  6. As a stage manager who blogs, I've made it common practise to ask permission from the companies & people I'm working with before I mention them by name. If they want to read things before I post them, I'm happy to go that route. I figure, the goal of my blog is to build bridges, not to burn them.

  7. Hi, Tom -- friend of the Dave Charest cause here.

    My two cents: the conversation about you and APAC is happening already in social media. You can either ignore it (at your peril) or join in and steer the tone and content in a healthy direction.

    Welcome to the fray!

  8. I'm excited people read my first blog and talked about it. Thanks to all!

  9. Tom -

    Let me say, I'm glad you stick to your principles. That Charest guy doesn't know everything, and don't let him think he does (I keeeed, I keeed!).

    Seriously, though, I think it's a good thing the two of you have an opposing viewpoint on social media. Not everyone digs or does it. That is a demographic. It's easy in this fast-paced world where "500 MILLION PEOPLE" engage in a certain social networking site to think I have to do it, too. If you want to, do it, if you don't don't. And, when opportunities to blog or share your thoughts on the interweb pop up, take them when it fits your objectives.

    People on Facebook, Twitter and all the other spots where people spend time on line are demographics. People on Twitter might not necessarily engage on Facebook, and vice versa. And, there are tons of people out there who are just like you. They don't do it. We must, in this swiftly shifting marketing maze, remember that you represent a demographic, too, and you shouldn't ignore it. Studies show, the majority of people attend the theater more often because they heard about the show via direct email. As long as you have people signing up for your list, in my book, your golden.

    And, that actor who talked crap about the audition process: sometimes we find out people are idiots when we hang out with them in a bar, sometimes we hire them and then find out they're dolts, and sometimes people are nice enough to broadcast it for the entire world to see. He did you a favor. Now, you know he's an idiot, and you didn't even have to spend time with him.

    Godspeed, Blogger Tom!

    PS. You gots ta shout out MilkMilkLemonade while you're here this week. This is a great platform, and you're here! (market, market, market, market - make art - market, market, market - make art - market, market, market - make art...die)

  10. Hey watch it there JD. You wouldn't want me to show off those pictures of you in a chicken suit...oh, wait...nevermind.

    You do bring up a good point. Not everyone has to do social media. Nor is it a savior. It a way to complement the things you already do that WORK!

    And even if you don't use it yourself it's a great place to tap into what's happening with the people who do.

    Bawk! (Chicken for: See MilkMilkLemonade Oct. 28th - Nov. 13th. Tickets:

    It's amazing how succinct that chicken speak is. ;-)