Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Bottom Line

Contributed by Shay Gines

I majored in business marketing before shocking my parents and changing my major to theatre. However there are many lessons from my business classes that apply to what we do in theatre.

With this in mind, I want to talk about the bottom line. For many Fortune 500 companies, the bottom line is about earnings. While Indie Theatre creators are acutely aware of how much money is or isn’t in the bank, the bottom line for us is often about something different.

Like many of us working Off-Off-Broadway, I wear/have worn many hats. Each of those hats – sometimes worn one at a time and sometimes many at once – have brought a different perspective and a different goal. Based on these various perspectives, I believe that a production has several different bottom lines and after some considerable thought, I have narrowed it down to five.

Of course any business major will tell you that it is not enough just to set the goal, but you must also identify the criteria for measuring if the goal was accomplished.

So to those ends here are my 5 bottom lines of a theatre production:
  1. Creative Success: Does the production have artistic merit?
    I measure if this was accomplished by how I myself feel about the project as well as measuring feedback I get from the creative team and the audience (and this includes reviews from critics). If the feeling is that the production: entertained, engaged, communicated, touched, challenged and/or awed an audience (and the specific criteria might change from one production to the next) and it was well executed, then I consider it to be a creative success.
  2. Personnel Fulfillment: Are the members of the production team fulfilled by their involvement?
    Each person will have their own motivation for being involved. Sometimes it is creative success as mentioned above. Sometimes it is in pursuit of interpersonal relationships or maybe it is just cold hard cash. The trick is to discover the motivation of each of your team members and then create an environment that allows them the opportunity to reach their goals. This is sometimes the most difficult bottom line to gage or accomplish. However if you manage to accomplish this, you will have an enthusiastic group of collaborators who will continue to grow and reenergize one another. Feedback from the production team and whether or not they want to work together again are indicators of meeting the criteria. Please note that I also consider the safety and well being of the production team to be a part of this bottom line and I measure that by whether or not the production is completed without injury.
  3. Press/Marketing Success: Did the production garner significant press and audience numbers?
    There is a strong case for separating these into 2 different categories; however I see them as an extension of one another. You will note that I did not include “good” or “positive” in the description. Creative success, above, deals with quality. Here I am talking about quantity only. How many listings were we able to place? How many websites or media outlets picked up the story? How many postcards were distributed or posters hung up or emails sent to how many people? AND, how many tickets were sold? While the goals and measuring whether or not you succeeded is all about the numbers, figuring out what did or did not appeal to press or potential audience members and a formula for reaching them is the tricky bit. Some of it is based on shear numbers, some on how the story was crafted and some on personal relationships.
  4. Environmental Conservation: Is the production as environmentally friendly as it could be?
    This one is new to the list and was added because of the fantastic blogs about Greening your Production that were posted here in May of 2012. Really these impressive bloggers layout the goals and criteria for success better than I ever could, so please check out these posts:
  5. Income Success: Did the production raise/earn the desired amount of money?
    Again this is about the numbers. As much as we protest that “the art is not about the money,” sometimes it is about the money. How much you make or lose or raise on a production can determine whether or not you are able to do the next production. You could win the lottery or a wealthy patron might bequeath you a million dollars, but setting goals and devising a game plan to reach those goals will probably be more successful.

Each of these bottom lines will have a higher or lower priority for individual productions or producers. However I still feel that it is a good exercise to think about each and honestly evaluate what success would look like for you for each of these areas.

Do you have another bottom line and if so, how do you measure whether or not you successfully achieved it?

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