2008 Boston Theatre Conference Wrap-Up

Last Saturday, I attended StageSource’s 2008 Boston Theatre Conference “Raising Our Standard.” While the highlight was listening to A.R.T. incoming Artistic Director Diane Paulus discuss theatre along with Peter DuBois of the Huntington Theatre Company and Curt Columbus of Trinity Repertory Company, I also had the privilege to co-moderate a session titled “It’s a Blog Blog World: Theatre Journalism, Audience Development and Web 3.0”.

I worked with with Charles McEnerney (Marketing Director of ArtsBoston) and Sooz aka Susan Kaup (Web Marketing, Event Planning, and Photography).

In 2004, I attended the first Boston Theatre Conference. It was the weekend after the Red Sox had traded away Nomar Garciaparra. Despite being a building full of artists and arts administrators, the Red Sox had created significant buzz.

We all know what happened a few months later, too.

In 2004, I attended the session about marketing and the internet.  I was disappointed.  Much of the session was spent being an Internet 101 class.

Unfortunately, this was the state of the using the internet to market theatre in Boston in 2004. I imagine that it wasn’t an atypical experience around the country.  The theatre community was still learning.

When Jeff Poulos called and asked if I would participate in this year’s conference I was honored and excited.  Corresponding with Charlie and Sooz in planning the session and brainstorming on the subjects to cover and that people may ask about was equally thrilling.  The synergy was wonderful.  It reenergized me.  So many opportunities exist for using the internet to building arts audiences.  It is marvelous to have such gifted colleagues whose brains I can pick.  Truly great.

Whenever I discuss technology with arts organizations, I do my best to humanize it.  Too often technology is thought of as something cold, inanimate, and unfeeling.  Simply, it is not thought of as creative and artistic.  However, the hardware and software are toolls. It is the people behind the screens and at the keyboards who are passionate, quirky, fun, and full of humanity.

On Saturday, the turnout we had for the session was great.  The group was lively, smart, and responsive.  Boston has come a long way since 2004.  Attendees’ curiosity was palatable.  Everybody wanted to know how they could leverage the technology for their own organization.  They wanted to know what the opportunities were.

Some organizations were already dipping their toes into marketing on the internet:

At the A.R.T., we’ve been doing some innovative online outreach, too:

Ever since I joined the Boston theatre community in 2003, I have always felt energized and inspired when I had the opportunity to discuss ideas with colleagues from other organizations.  Jeff Poulos has been a central hub to building that community.  He’s been a true leader, and I appreciate him including me in Saturday’s conference.

Now is the time for the Boston theatre community to leverage collective knowledge and experience of members who have been using the web to market their shows.  As a community, we have to commit to investing in using the internet in this new way.

The time for business as usual has passed.

I came out of this weekend inspired and ready for the new season of theatre.

I’m sure that I’m not the only one.

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