For the past two productions this year, Woolly’s engaged in some evaluative dialogue with its community as part of two separate but linked processes. The first, and more intensive, is the Intrinsic Impact project commissioned from WolfBrown by Theatre Bay Area. Woolly is one of 18 theatres across the country participating in this study, seeking to measure and understand the impact or effect of live performance on the people who watch it (the intellectual, spiritual, emotional, and social impacts). Results will be available come summer.
The second, more compact, is through Woolly’s work in the EMCArts Innovation Lab evolving our thinking of the new area “Connectivity.” This “Audience Mini-Survey” correlates with its bigger sibling, the Intrinsic Impact Survey, but is being used to explore the impact of the performance depending on the composition of the audience. (See we are experimenting with “audience design”—an approach to cultivating new audiences linked to the artistic design of the show that acknowledges that who is in the house is equally important to the success of the production in performance as the lights or sound.)
Woolly invited six audiences for both Oedipus el Rey and The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs to complete the survey. The questions were identical save an addition we made with Steve Jobs: we learned after Oedipus el Rey that we wanted to know if the responder was a single ticket buyer (STB) or subscriber (SUBS) and how long they had been a part of the Woolly community.
We asked to rate on a sale of 1 – 5:
1. Overall how strong was your emotional response to the performance?
2. How much did you feel a sense of connection to others in the audience?
3. Are any of the scenes or lines from the performance still bouncing around in your head?
4. Was the audience filled with a cross-section of different people?
Then we asked:
5. Circle the phrase that most closely describes the relationship between the audience and the art and artists at this performance: distanced investigation; explosive engagement; passive observation; direct confrontation; standard interaction.
6. After answering the above, if there is an additional word or phrase that even more accurately describes your perception of this relationship, please write it here:…..
We are still sifting through the Audience Mini-Survey responses in house and will be comparing these first two shows’ surveys with the ones we receive from Bootycandy. But we wanted to share a few findings with you.
- 453 people completed the Oedipus el Rey mini-survey (42% response rate); 564 for Steve Jobs (38% response rate). Steve Jobs responses came 67% from STB and 23% from SUBS. Something to note: we surveyed Saturday matinees which are lightly subscribed shows, but where we are experimenting with designed audiences, so we believe this explains the lower SUBS percentage. 40% of STB responders identified as having been with the Woolly community for 0 years (!) while over 50% of SUBS have been with Woolly 1 – 4 years.
- Respondents gave overall a slightly higher rating of their emotional response to Steve Jobs than Oedipus (4.5 and 4 respectively on a 1 – 5 scale) and about the same for lines bouncing around in the head after the show.
- For Oedipus, in which our audience design efforts yielded more observable racially diverse audience composition, respondents overall gave a higher rating (3.5 for Oedipus, and 2.9 for Steve Jobs).
- How would audiences describe Oedipus el Rey? They were torn. 27% noted “explosive engagement” was how they would describe the relationship between the audience and the art and artists and 26% noted “direct confrontation.” For Steve Jobs: 51% said “explosive engagement.”
- Additional words to describe audience relationship prompted many responses. A nibble from both shows:
- Oedipus el Rey included: cautious engagement; magnetic engagement; fascinated engagement; immersion; I think people were very interested and paying attention, absorbed in the play; so close, uncomfortable in a good way; penetrating; that shit was powerful; been there; culture conflict and religious threat.
- Steve Jobs included: Mind-blowing, powerful, direct; Induced shame; a new form of journalism/anthropology in theatre form; passionately familial; pulled in with comedy; “What’s with all the screaming?”; empathetic agreement; art = revolution; insidious humor (and that is a compliment)
And this is just a taste. You can find the result of the Oedipus surveys here and the Steve Jobs surveys here. We will be posting files of all the collected survey data after the close of Bootycandy and asking you to draw conclusions with us. (Internally, we are already wrestling with potential lessons to learn from this about everything from show selection to seating configurations.) If you want to learn or talk more about this, please don’t hesitate to contact me by phone or email.
Lest I close without saying so: THANK YOU! Your investment in Woolly and willingness to speak your truth about your experience at the theatre is humbling. I know I am personally thankful to be a part of such an exciting, connected community.
~ Rachel Grossman, Connectivity Director