24-Hour Lobby

T-Shirt

In the old days (from 3000 b.c.e. until the late 1990’s), “interactive” wasn’t about new media and marketing techniques, but about the interaction between artists and audiences.

Maybe it’s time for the live arts to leap from today’s technology to recapture the leading role in driving interactive possibilities and engagement.

This week, the Theatre Communications Group (TCG) will be holding its national conference in Chicago. The gathering brings together America’s not-for-profit theatres — the institutions, the boards, the artistic and management staffs, and the individual artists. (TCG is the central organization for the non-commercial theatre world in America. The organization publishes plays and books, a great magazine, collects data on trends and resources, and also hosts the International Theatre Institute’s USA office and outreach.)

In preparation for leading a session at the conference, KadmusArts put together a presentation on everything-we-think-we-know about web development, data, and how the arts tell their story online. (All in a few slides!) And, we’ve been thinking a lot about how the live arts can deepen the connection to their current audience and reach new audiences.

Clearly, innovations across technology, business and the arts are propelling new online opportunities to connect, exchange and inspire. Yet, how often are arts companies chasing the latest technology, social network, or mobile app instead of letting their content determine the tools? And, why is the conversation about online tools so often about marketing as opposed to being an extension of the creative work itself? In other words, who leads: the biz or the art?

In speaking with a playwright, the great director Harold Clurman said: “I can’t turn your shit into gold, but I can turn your gold into shit.” In other words, he knew that at the center was the creative work itself.

KadmusArts.com began as a simple link between the live stage and audiences all around the world. (Right now we are up to representing every kind of dance, music and theatre festival in 154 countries!) As we’ve watched the site grow (and thank you for its amazing growth!) and created online content packages for other arts, media and entertainment companies, we’ve seen the possibilities in what it means to be in the lobby, as it were, between the artists on stage and the audiences coming in.

The reason the best producers and artists hang out in the lobby is to be able to listen to what the audience has to say. The reason audiences like to hang-out in the lobby is to be able to contribute to the discussion, to the work itself. Everyone is trading stories. Don’t you think this is exactly how online engagement works at its best? And when it does, isn’t it the best way to maximize an audience connection today and develop the audiences of tomorrow?

Unlike the theatre lobby, the online space is open 24/7 as a gathering place for artists, management, and audiences. Once you fully appreciate that the lobby is always open and accessible, it becomes clear that the choice of tools and how to use them must change for the audience and artist interaction.

What do you think should be in the online 24/7 “lobby”? What’s your ideal online platform to propel not just the audiences but the artistic work, as well? How do you answer the question, “What if?”

- Bill Reichblum

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