Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Sean Daniels on blogging at CalShakes

A while back I mentioned that CalShakes was doing backstage blogs (blagstages?). I sent Sean Daniels, the Associate Artistic Director, some questions about his efforts, and he got back to me once he was able to surface for air after putting up the second part of the Nicholas Nickelby epic.

What prompted you to start a blog for Othello?

I wanted to find a way that we could open up lines of communication between our artists and our audience. In the sports world they fine players if they don't do interviews after the game, in theater we purposely hide everyone after the show. Oddly enough the sports world seems to be doing a bit better than the arts world these days, and I think one of those reasons is that people feel like they have personal connections with the athletes they watch. They don't often feel the same way about the artists they watch. I wanted to find a way in which our audience members could get closer to the artists they love and also find out just what it takes to put on a production.

Where did you promote your blogs?

We mainly put it on our website and included it in our e-materials.

So what happened?

I don't know if it was just because of the blogs, but last season combined we sold about 200 "Under 30" tickets, and for Othello we sold a bit over 900. Now, clearly that's not just because of the blogs, but I think it's because of the many things we're doing to make connecting with us easier. As you've probably noticed, our website (www.calshakes.org) is also a world easier to navigate and now we do same-day-on-line tickets...this is all part of what led to people under 30 attending our show. Or just making it easier for people of all ages to attend our shows.

And since then you've asking actors to blog during Nicholas Nickelby.

The actors seem to have really enjoyed it, in fact, they've given hope to the next round of actors that we asked to blog for THE TEMPEST. Of course, when they are rehearsing and performing it's tough for them to keep up with it, but I think that also shows the time commitment that they are making to the show. If you don't have to time to blog, you must barely have time to nap.

Any feedback on this latest round of blogs?

People want honesty, and I think as people get more comfortable doing this, they'll feel more comfortable being honest about what's working and what's not. If a blog ends up being someone writing a valentine to themselves, that's no good. I think we did a great job of telling the story of rehearsal for these two shows.

Will you be doing it again?

Oh yes, on top of everything else I already said, I think it's a great way to crack open the artistic process and let people see what we do. In theater, we're always SOOOO secretive about everything that it often comes across as being exclusionary and that's about the opposite of what theatre should be. I hope that people discover that they rehearsal process is as much a journey (if not more) than the show itself. That and everyone loves a good war story from rehearsal.


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