Using Technology for Theater?

Using Technology for Theater?

Every year I try to update my vision of how to create more theater, and what that theater should look like.

What exactly is my role this year as a theatre-maker in the 21st century? What can I personally do to develop, produce and promote more theater?

Is theater dying? Or is the way we make theater today dying?

The old Danny Newman subscription model doesn’t work anymore. Regional theaters and downsizing, or closing their doors. All of this has of course been accelerated by nearly two years of shutdown in theater.

Theater isn’t dying – it will always be around – but we need to examine how to build new audiences, to speak to those audiences and to market them off the sofas and into theaters.

Can we use technology to help us create more theater?


Strengths of 21st Century Theater


Let’s review at the beginning of the year what we’re doing right:

  1. We were a diverse society from the beginning. Thus, we are and must continue to be a diverse and inclusive theater if we are to develop new audiences.
  2. Theater takes the invisible idea, the invisible thought, and makes it visible. Today theater is doing it more creatively than ever, utilizing technology, “game theory,” and innovative performance techniques (immersive, site-specific, experimental structures, etc.)
  3. We all acknowledge that staging performing arts performances in a community accelerates the economic growth of that area and leads to a revitalized community. The arts are good for local businesses.
  4. The arts have a positive impact on academic achievement and personal growth of young people, as well as other marginalized groups and the elderly. The arts are good for society in general.
  5. The “live” component of theatrical performance create social engagements that build social empathy and understanding that can help heal fractures that are increasingly dividing us everywhere.

All of the above are true, but apparently we’ve done a terrible job communicating these strengths to the public. How can we entice new audiences in when ticket prices are stratospheric, yet thanks to technology, movies and videos are everywhere?

Surely we can use this same technology to promote theater.


Technology Makes Entertainment More Accessible


We are now surrounded with more entertainment options than any other time in human history – accessible any time on the little device we all carry in our pockets. YouTube is free, and paying for entertainment is over (except for live concert and sporting events) for many people.

Why not use technology to build an appetite for live theater?

Streaming theater is a viable option, if for no other reason than to serve our audiences. Allowing my college students to view bootleg videos of past musicals on Broadway or great plays at the National Theatre creates more of a desire to see theatre, not less. I love watching students discover HEDDA GABLER or SPRING AWAKENING for the first time, and getting excited about the work and the ideas.

Also, audiences are reluctant to buy expensive tickets for shows they don’t know. Familiarity with Harry Potter drives a desire to buy a ticket to that show, or a ticket to the parody musicals  of “The Office” or “Friends.”

How can audiences become familiar with your show? Where and what can you post online to drive a desire to see your show?

Here are some ideas that I see working:

  • Record bits of your play or musical being rehearsed (even if there’s no planned production yet) to post on social media
  • Create a promo clips or sizzle reel and post on social media and on your website (a necessity now).
  • Grab your friends and shoot a video of your show scene by scene. Edit and post on YouTube (this works especially well if you’re a millennial or Gen Z creator)
  • Go live and play your musical one song at a time, with an introduction. Post on YouTube to create a playlist, and on your website
  • Writing a play? Record a monologue or an especially dramatic moment, and post online
  • Have a local staged reading? Hire a videographer to record it. Don’t forget to capture the audience’s reactions at the end. Post it on YouTube for a short time (if allowed).

Social Media is the new word of mouth. I’m not a “digital native,” but hey, I can learn. So can you.


Always Promote Yourself


The end goal of all this promotion is, of course, to get your show onstage. You’ll still have to do the traditional activities to make people aware of you and your work:

  • Continually submitting to every play submissions contest you can find
  • Networking with Artistic Directors, producers and literary managers, in person and online
  • Volunteering at your local theater, or attending their galas – and donating
  • Be active on the New Play Exchange and participate in the community
  • Designing a modern website and keeping it updated
  • Maintaining an email list of friends, family and followers
  • Participating in online communities like CreateTheater, The Playwrights Center, the Dramatist’s Guild, and the BMI Musical Theater Workshop (to name a few) where you can network with other industry professionals.

Yes, it is exhausting to build an audience for your work, and to invest time in your social networks. It takes time, consistent effort, and passion. It. Is. Exhausting. I get it.

I am exhausted, too. But I’m always learning new ways to promote good work and stage good work. I will continually adapt our storytelling onstage to allow new audiences to experience theatre in new ways (look for an immersive show coming soon to a Brooklyn restaurant, and the resurrection of our 2020 Monday Night Reading Series online).

Because we’re theater people, and this is what we do. We adapt, and go where the audiences are. We don’t stand there and shout at them to come to us. That’s so “twentieth century.” We go to them.

Write good stuff and send it to me. I’m looking to develop new musicals and plays in the 2024 CreateTheater New Works Festival in NYC, and beyond.

Schedule 10 Tasks to Get Produced

Schedule 10 Tasks to Get Produced

Success is a Choice

Following up on last week’s blog, I want to reiterate the above: SUCCESS IS A CHOICE.

Do you want to be a successful playwright? Then hang out with successful playwrights. Put yourself in the company of producers and artistic directors – then make friends with them. I encourage everyone to network both online and in person as much as possible.

Do what winners do and you will be a winner as well.

Wait! You say you do that, and you’re still not being produced? Is there anything else?

Yes. Commit to taking ACTION.

Schedule Time to Submit Your Plays  

You can’t say you’re doing everything unless you are doing the following on a regular routine basis:

  • Join the Dramatist Guild and look over their submission calendar weekly
  • Subscribe to Play Submissions Helper. Check it weekly as well.
  • Join the Playwright Binge email group at Read the emails.
  • Set a goal of _____ submissions each week/month (the number must be realistic for you)
  • Make it your business to achieve that goal weekly.

As a successful playwright you must find time in your day to both write new work and promote your existing scripts as much as possible, on a regular routine basis that works for you.

Make a plan. If you schedule time to do this routinely, chances are that you will.

Create Systems to Make Life Easier

I organize all of my work in Dropbox. You may prefer Google Drive, hard-drive files on your laptop, or some other organizing tool that I’m not aware of. Just make it work for you.

  1. Set up online files for each play to submit:
    • Text of your script as a pdf
    • Blind copy of your script as a pdf
    • Your bio (both long and short)
    • Production History
    • Previous director bios and cast rosters
    • Set and Production Requirements
    • Casting Breakdown
    • MP3 files (if a musical)
    • Possibly short samples of your script (add when a theater requests your first 20 pages, for example)
    • Photos
    • Reviews, Recommendations and Testimonials
    • Awards, grants and sponsorships
    • Recordings of readings, cabarets, concerts and showcases (add full-length and edited versions)
    • Sizzle Reel
    • Marketing graphics: logos, marketing copy, etc.
    • Legal Paperwork (contracts, LOAs, publishing documents, etc.)
  2.  Create a Submission Tracking Sheet for each play (excel)
    • Dates of submission
    • Theater
    • Contact Information
    • Track communications and replies
  3. Create a Productions Tracking Sheet to track productions in excel
    • Production Dates
    • Theaters
    • Producers and Artistic Directors
    • Contact Sheet listing creative team, producing team and cast

As you add to your information, keep it ready and accessible in your online folder to make future submissions as easy – just reach into the file and attach the documents to the submission.

Licensing Your Script

Regular licensing agreements were typically after an Off-Broadway run or a NYC non-profit run. You should still submit to the major licensing houses. Below is from an article written by Kaelyn Barron:

  1. Theatrical Rights Worldwide
  2. Broadway Play Publishing
  3. Heartland Plays
  4. Pioneer Drama Service
  5. Eldridge Plays and Musicals
  6. Brooklyn Publishers
  7. Off-the-Wall Plays
  8. Plays Inverse Press
  9. Scripts for Stage
  10. Stageplays
  11. Hominum Journal
  12. Gemini Magazine
  13. Silk Road
  14. The Courtship of Winds
  15. The Playwrights Publishing Company
  16. Smith Scripts

Concord Theatricals and Playscripts Inc. accept submissions from agents or literary managers only.

However, you could also try to self-publish through Kindle Direct or promoting your script through ACCT (American Association of Community Theaters). You should definitely also join the New Play Exchange and create an author page for yourself and your plays to be discovered by regional theaters and others. 

Always Be Pitching

Where else can your plays be constantly pitching themselves?

  • YouTube promos on your own channel
  • Your Website
  • Social Media accounts

Submit your work everywhere. Memorize your pitch and network.

If you’re a writer, you write. But you also must promote. 

Hey, if it were easy everyone would do it. I hope this helps!