An abandoned letter to Theatre makers

Theatre is great. Most anyway. Actually only some. But 90% of everything is crap and people don’t avoid cinemas because 90% of the films suck. Your theatre is definitely in that magical ten percent of goodness. I know this because you tell me. I can see by the care you put into your facebook event, letting me know who the cast and director are and the dates and time while leaving out any info on subject matter so I would have a nice surprise when I come watch your show. I don’t even know whether I’m going to laugh or cry. Or the way you playfully make a hideous poster and stick it up on poles all over the city, I’ll certainly not forget that image no matter how much I want to. I love the sassy way you challenge Capetonians not to be lazy, because that’s obviously why they don’t come to theatre. Sheer laziness. Never mind that they flock in droves to night markets, gigs, gallery openings, beerfests and quirky little film festivals.

Oh shit, I moved off sassy satire into outright sarcasm. That’s not what I meant to do. I meant to parody the thinking of marketing in the theatre scene, instead I just got angry.

Look, I don’t have a degree in marketing or sales or anything other than theatre. But I can see that if you are not giving people reasons to see theatre then they won’t. I go watch shows because I work in theatre, I have a professional interest. So if you see me at your show it’s not because you did anything right. You can only measure that by counting strangers.

TheatreSports has lasted for 18 years, which makes it a pretty successful company. It has no sponsorship or funding other than what people pay for tickets. I’ll be the first to admit that our marketing is patchy at best, but we have one incredible strength: we give people the reason to see our show. We don’t tell people how good we are, our awards, how long we’ve been running for or that theatre is an amazing cultural phenomenon that deserves support. We tell them that it’s hilarious improvised comedy. And when they come for hilarious improvised comedy, we give it to them.

Essentially marketing is telling people what you have for them. You cannot get people to pay to see something they don’t want to and you can’t get someone to come back if you can’t deliver.

So, semi-fictional people I began addressing at the start, look at the points of contact you have with the public – your posters, releases and facebook/blog posts – and ask yourself what reason you’re giving people to see your show.