Summer Theatre Fest (or how I stole ideas from previous APASO conferences and made them manageable for one employee and four volunteers)
Background on SFTL • South Florida Theatre League is 20 years old. • Lack in Brand Identity – three names over the past six years • One Employee and a Volunteer Board • Covers a Wide Geographical Range (250 Miles) • Community in Transition, five major theatres have closed, yet a dozen new ones have started • Most Theatres are Under 15 Years Old and Run By Founders
Background on Summer Theatre Fest • Eight years ago, WLRN came to SFTL and said, if you create a Festival, we’ll advertise it. • South Florida Theatre Festival was born. It ran for three months in the Spring and didn’t feel like a Festival. • We shortened it to three weeks and moved it to the Fall, losing WLRN’s support. • Theatres said that they most wanted to get butts in seats during the Summer, when the Snowbirds are gone. • We approached WLRN about bringing back the three month long format, but this time including Festival specific programing.
Programing Decisions • We needed something that wouldn’t cost our theatres significant money or time. • We wanted events on a weekly basis, created specifically for Summer Theatre Fest. • We wanted events that I could do on my own or that one board member could do on their own. • We wanted events that didn’t necessarily require me to be in the room. • We wanted the events to be exciting to our membership and the public.
Free Night of Theater FNOT is the one element that carried over from previous incarnations. It’s the easiest way for us to get press attention and helps tie together the Fest as a whole.
Summer Theatre Fest Reading Series • Readings of New Plays by Local Playwrights Every Monday Night • 18 Readings on 13 Monday Nights – with some nights where two readings were happening in separate counties. • Tapped into our existing culture of new play development without being a major burden on the membership. • 1stapproached theatres with resident playwrights, then approached playwrights of standing in the community, then approached female playwrights and playwrights color • Majority of the Readings were INCREDIBLY well attended, many selling out, mostly at theatres that supplemented our marketing with their own
Get in Bed with the Arts • We had previous discussions about joining the Coconut Grove Bed Race on Labor Day. Why not build a bed feature into our weekly programing? • We titled the campaign “Get in Bed with the Arts” as we wanted to support all of the arts, not just our membership. • In order to get our membership on board with the idea, we debuted the bed at the Carbonell Awards After Party, where everyone could get “prom style” pictures taken on the bed.
Get in Bed with the Arts Every Thursday from June to August, we took the bed to a different theatre and interviewed patrons on what the arts meant to them, the importance of exposing children to the arts, and how the arts effect their community.
Problems • We did not collect data, so we can’t measure our impact outside of attendance at readings. • Burn out. The burden of getting the bed from place to place was really on me and two other board members. Other board members took on multiple reading assignments. • Video Quality. While we had some great interviews, the sound was terrible on many of them and I didn’t have the skill set or the time to fix and edit videos. • Getting People to the Bed Race. We had a lot of runners drop out and ended up running with someone who jumped in for us at the last minute. We’ve talked about bringing the bed to parades, but no one wants to take part in effort of it. • Our Advertising Support Outside of WLRN didn’t seem to be effective in getting the word out. We used our local alt weekly to really drum up support for Free Night of Theater and it didn’t increase lottery entries.
2014 • We’ve implemented a blind submissions pool of scripts for readings, as a compromise to support our individual playwright membership and to try and increase diversity. • Due to some issues at WLRN, we do not have the $50,000 in in-kind support this year – we’re finalizing other advertising options. • Because the Bed was so burdensome, we’re doing a Beach Umbrella theme this year – “Come Under Our Umbrella.” We have 15 umbrellas with our logo stamped on them that we’re handing out to member theatres to paint, similar to the Chicago Cows.