This week I did some promoting of my upcoming show, See How They Run. Even though I am solely directing, I can’t help but think like a producer. The timer goes off and I know that I have to send an email to my supporters, send information about the show to my press contacts, as well as post on my websites.
As I was updating my list of websites (and surfing the web), I came across the Coney Island Circus Sideshow. Oh my goodness, the memories flooded my head. It never failed. A group of us always ended up there as we walked the boardwalk trying to stay out of trouble. We would spend the day on the beach, then we’d hit the Sideshow, and then…ride the Cyclone. Good times. The Sideshow was an attraction to the nth degree. Man eating fire? Yes, please. Man swallowing sword? I won’t watch but will watch. Tattooed all over? Woooow. (Folks, this was the ’80s).
So of course the bells go off in my head about the relationship between attraction and promotion. Attraction is the action or power of drawing forth a response. Promotion is the act of furthering the growth or development of something. Drawing a response vs. furthering the growth. And really, the two should be used together when marketing a show (or anything for that matter).
I use the word promote all the time as a producer and director. I can promote anything I want but what I have to ask myself is how do I make it attractive?
I learned about promotion a few years ago. In 2008, I assistant directed Moose Murders for a local theater in Queens. I have no idea what made me volunteer to do the publicity for the show. Actually, I do. I wanted to see if I could be a publicist and what would that entail. Since I didn’t have a foundation in this area, I didn’t have any limits or expectations. So I just did it and learned a lot along the way. I ended up teaching myself the ins and outs of publicity – how to write a press release, finding media contacts, creating a flyer that was attractive. The idea of promoting Moose Murders as a Broadway’s favorite flop and a must see, made the show an attraction. There was intrigue by many. They wanted to know why we would want to produce a show that was a colossal failure. Now that we had this type of interest, we targeted the audience members who saw the original production as well as Frank Rich who wrote the scathing review. Unfortunately, he was unable to attend. It just so happened that a local actor friend was Arthur Bicknell’s college roommate. We used all of this to create buzz. Moose Murders remains one of my favorite productions.
The same thing can be said for Torch Song Trilogy. As far as we knew, the show hadn’t had a revival in New York City since Harvey Fierstein did it on Broadway in 1983. What did we have to lose? Nothing. We decided to reach out to Mr. Fierstein since we knew he was in town. He reprised Edna for the final performances of Hairspray. He gave us his blessing so we used that as part of our promotion. We made the show attractive by presenting the three acts, separately, in their own time slots. This allowed the ticket buyer to either by one ticket per show or the trilogy package. Either way, they were able to mix and match the three pieces giving them a chance to see all three acts over two weeks. Torch Song Trilogy was a success for Black Henna and personal success for me. I hold that production very close to my heart.
I continue to learn everyday. As we are living in a world where technology is continuously evolving, it is so important to be on top of it. For example, if one social media is waning, another is exponentially growing. Remember Friendster?
So promotion works if it is attractive. And if it’s attractive, it’s definitely promotable.