Hey, friends. I’m here to tell you about a fun new initiative we’re experimenting with for House of Gold called Woolly About Town. If you follow Woolly on Facebook and/or Twitter you might know a little something about this already…but before I get into specifics, let me back up a bit.
Starting with the 8pm show next Wednesday night, there will be some kind of post-show discussion—an Expert Dialogue, Audience Exchange, or Mammoth Forum—after every single performance of House of Gold. The sheer number of organized opportunities for dialogue we’re offering around this show is unprecedented in the company’s history, and Connectivity Director Rachel Grossman and I have been working diligently with the Literary Department for the last several weeks to nail down some exciting special guests to catalyze conversation. Each discussion, designed to deepen the audience’s experience by providing a public forum for grappling with the provocative questions raised by this rich, complicated play, will also be integrated into our marketing and sales strategy as what we sometimes call a “value add.” Rather than just an unexpected cherry on top of your Woolly sundae that you only learn about from a sign in the lobby ten minutes before showtime, the idea is that each discussion be seen as an integral part of the experience you’re signing up for when you buy a ticket in the first place—an added value that tips the scales in favor of that initial decision to engage with us.
Value. Value is an interesting word. How do you measure value in your everyday life? Do you think of value primarily in terms of dollars and cents? Ethical principles? Intellectual stimulation? Physical stimulation? (Sorry, wrong show.) Assuming you value theatre, what is it about theatre that you most value? Assuming that you value Woolly Mammoth, what is it about Woolly that you most value? How does a Woolly experience add value to the value inherent for you in the experience of theatre? And finally, how can we add even MORE value to the Woolly experience?
Obviously, there are no single answers to these questions—we take a lot of pride at Woolly in the heterogeneity of our audience, and are extremely wary of a “one-size-fits-all” approach to our work in the Connectivity department. Nonetheless, we are always pushing ourselves to find more ways to organically and holistically add value to the experience of seeing a play at Woolly, and one potential vehicle for added value is a concept we like to call Audience Design.
Live theatre is a necessarily ephemeral thing; it does not exist without an audience. Consequently, I am a true-blue believer that we ought to think of the audience as a collaborator in our work, rather than as an afterthought to it. This is the impulse behind the notion of Audience Design: that the story being told on a stage is, for better or worse, fundamentally shaped and re-shaped every night by the particular mélange of hearts and minds collected together to receive and respond. We would never try to designate a single demographic group as the only “correct” audience for a play, but when you’re looking for butts to put in seats, it is worthwhile—even imperative—to take the time to find out whom those particular butts belong to. While you can’t (and probably shouldn’t try to) have the same degree of control over this sort of design as, for example, a lighting designer has over the focus of his lamps, intentionality makes a world of difference when you set out to find some new butts whose owners might not know yet just how much value they stand to add to the experience of our work—not only for the artists onstage but for all the other butts as well.
And that, my friends, brings me to Woolly About Town—a simple, practicable idea extracted from the glorious mess of intellectual and philosophical discourse that so defines the institutional culture ‘round these parts. Basically, we’ve been going around to local bars and sponsoring their Trivia Nights—offering free tickets to House of Gold for the winning teams, some Woolly swag for the runners-up, and even in some cases providing our own House of Gold-inspired trivia questions. Why, you ask? Because honestly, we just think that the people who dig trivia would dig our show—and in digging it, make it that much more diggable for the rest of us.
Check out the Woolly blog in a few weeks to find out if this project had any demonstrable results—and in the meantime, check out our Facebook page to see when Woolly is coming to a bar near you!
~Max Freedman, Connectivity Assistant