I heard recently about a director having the nasty experience of inviting a journalist into rehearsals and then having an unhelpful (I haven’t read it, it’s paywalled) preview article published just before the show opens.
Reading about it sent me back to look at what I wrote nearly eleven years ago (!) about using blogging in theatre. I was surprised to see what emphasis I put on buzz and PR (that was how the original question had been framed). And it’s that angle that all the marketing people picked up. I went to see John Berry at ENO because (see the comments on the post) they were doing something like this a couple of years later. And a year after this first post, I did a little site about the opening of Avenue Q. It had to be done, and I’m glad I did it, but I don’t read any of the West End theatre blogs or the mainstream journalism that has taken on our blogging form but sticks to traditional writing styles of reporting and criticism.
But I was thinking about more than marketing.
What I was thinking was of a kind of collaborative production journal, where everyone contributes… think “The Making of…” fly-on-the-wall documentary style, only on the web, and released in chunks as they happen, day by day rather than being stitched together after the show has closed.
I think this points to something much more interesting to do – about using these tools as part of the production, as part of the artistic process, to log progress and reflect on thinking and how things are emerging, for the benefit of the team themselves much more than prospective audience members and to create something bigger and longer-lasting and more networked than traditional documentation or archiving. It’s “sources going direct”, cutting out the dependence on news organisations (and their sodding paywalls) and making our own media.
Thanks Adam for pointing to Michael Billington’s piece on theatre criticism.
I wish I had more time to respond, but in the few minutes before I get in the shower, I would add these points:
A great number of the theatre directors I’ve spoke to about in-house (marketing, if you like) blogging they have seen it’s *primary purpose* as circumventing what they see as piss-poor print-bound criticism which can kill a show’s sales just because the critic had a hangover.
Mr Billington should have a look here for an explanation of how to deal with that “relentless din”
I sat in front of Mr Billington at a press night last week. He was very well behaved, as you’d expect. The same can’t be said for one of his peers who threatened to disrupt the beginning of the show because the seat he’d been given didn’t suit his taste.
Is anyone doing (new)media literacy classes for these poor old hacks? How can we help them distinguish between the different types of blogging in theatre, spot the good stuff in among the rest and understand that you don’t have to read them all, any more than you have to read every column-inch of a newspaper.
I just love the Carmen blog from the English National Opera.
It’s exactly what I was talking about here
Well done to the folk at interesource who got it going, but super well done to the ENO people who seem to have taken to it as naturally as I’d hoped. I was really grateful to get to talk to John Berry a few weeks ago and hear his take – I came away understanding that ENO was an obvious place to do this – democratisation of access to opera is one of their cornerstones. We also talked about ‘bootstrapping’ online and offline relationships and I thought I saw a small lightbulb go on.
There’s a ton of cool video on the site – perhaps too many talking heads (but who am I to talk!) but some fantastic music and behind the scenes action. Go look.
I think it’s a great example of post-geek bloggery – as I’ve been saying for a while, make your own fly-on-the-wall documentary of what you’re doing rather than getting a crew in to follow you around and then stitch you up after the event.
When I’ve pitched this idea to other people, the perceived barriers have been (lack of) editorial control and shining the light on the creative process too early. I don’t know what the process has been for creating content here, but I can’t imagine that Sally Potter has had to get her blog approved by a committee every time she writes.
One suggestion – a more obvious place to find CC-licenced images for bloggers to use to illustrate their posts about you 🙂