1.) In one word, describe your present condition:
2.) With no restrictions, describe the present condition of the Vancouver theatre scene.
It feels very hierarchical to me. There is the nobility, the upper class, if you like, I’m talking Arts Club, Playhouse, Bard. They have the money, the sponsorships, and, for the most part, the audience. They focus on doing marketable, commercial pieces that are not terribly risky. At the opposite end, there’s the small, indie theatre scene. They have no money, and are mostly producing one-offs as a way to showcase themselves. They tend to go with riskier scripts, smaller venues. Somewhere in the middle, the bourgeois, are the more established indie companies that are doing some really great work—both risky and commercially viable. I’m thinking about Rumble, Newworld, See Seven. They are doing some really exciting stuff.
3.) Please explain to us simple theatre folk the difference between Publicity and Marketing.
Marketing is a more general, global term to describe what you are doing to connect with an audience and get them to come and see your show. It can include buying ads, printing posters and handbills, setting up a website, guerrilla marketing (ie: gags, etc.), and, yes, hiring a publicist. Publicity is the fine art of getting you media coverage in the popular media: the daily and weekly papers, radio, TV, blogs—previews and reviews. Buying a 4”x4” ad in the Georgia Straight (advertorial media) will set you back $500, and will barely be noticed. However, a full-page preview in the Province will only cost you the price of a publicist, and will get a lot more attention.
4.) What publicity skills should we develop until the day we can afford our own publicist?
Get a website. If you don’t have the software or the knowledge to do it yourself, I guarantee one of your friends will. Get business cards. They are inexpensive, and they make you look professional. And have them with you all the time, because you never know… Build up a mailing list for the time when you do produce a show, and then you’ve got a vehicle to advertise.
5.) How should we really feel about the critics?
A review, whether good or bad, is still just one person’s opinion. Unfortunately, if it’s negative, and that person is Colin Thomas, it can affect your bottom line. But I think being reviewed, period, says that your company has a certain level of professionalism, and that is never a bad thing. Don’t let bad reviews discourage you. Keep going. Try again.
6.) How is the internet changing the business side of theatre?
I love the internet as a marketing tool! I use it all the time. From websites about the show to Facebook, to e-blitzes, to online listings, I really think that most people these days get their information from the ‘net. Whenever I want to know something, I google it. It’s that simple. And it’s basically free.
7.) What type of material should we be focusing on to build a new audience?
I have to preface my answer to this question by saying that this is my own personal opinion, Rebecca-the-actor, not so much Rebecca-the-publicist. I want to see stuff that is original and is not yet another production of some British sex farce. I recently saw Black Rider for the first time, (again in the interest of full disclosure, Michael Scholar, Jr is a dear friend of mine, he directed me a few years back) and part of why I loved it so much was because there were beautiful, original, theatrical moments in it that surprised me and took my breath away—things I’d never seen on stage before. I love to see new things, but I’ve seen a lot of theatre, so I am maybe a bit jaded and cynical.
8.) How has your work as an actor influenced your business acumen?
The two need to go hand in hand. And I really think that my work as an actor and producer makes me a better publicist. I do a lot of work for companies who have never hired a publicist before, maybe have never even produced anything before. There is no school that can teach you to be a producer. You just gotta get out there and do it. I think I have the right mix of the creative and the business skills, and I get how the process works, because I’ve been there.
9.) As a mother?
Having Michael changed everything. It made everything both more intense and it also forced me to let go of a lot of stuff. First of all, it allowed me to stop obsessing about my “career” and focus on something else, and that was a huge gift. Second, it made me realize how important it is to have passion in life, to have something outside of your child that you can show them is so important to you, as you pursue those goals. I want him to have passion for something in life, and the best way I can do that is by being an example. Third, I have less time to get work done, now, so the time I have to work, I work smarter. Finally, I imagine it’s probably pretty fun to have a parent who is an actor. We read a lot of books, and I do all the voices. We do puppet shows and pretend, and I really don’t care if I look silly. I hope I get to share the stage with him someday. I don’t know if he’ll be an actor, but he seems to be quite musically inclined.
10.) What are your top 3 theatre business reads?
The Intent to Live by Larry Moss: okay, I know this is a book on acting, but I LOVE Larry Moss. And one thing he talks about over and over is work ethic—which can be applied to business as well as acting. He comes from this place of loving the theatre, and after all, isn’t that why we are all here?
A Practical Handbook for the Actor: yes, I know, another book on acting, but I love books that are not theoretical and offer, instead, practical, tangible things you can do. This is a really simple book in that respect.
The Actor’s Survival Kit by Miriam Newhouse and Peter Messaline: this is a Canadian book, and again, has lots of practical, tangible advice. A good basic book, a good place to start.
11.) What’s next?
So much. Dishpig is having a two-week holdover at Havana Feb 12-23, I am handling the publicity for World Theatre Day in March, have been working on a film for the past two years which is now in post, the Beast of Bottomless Lake (both as publicist and actor), Red Square, a new restaurant opening in the next month or so, some corporate stuff, and Orphans, produced by WINK theatre, and directed by my old friend from Newfoundland, Drove at the Firehall in June. Oh—and I am seriously looking at projects to produce again. It’s time.