Sunday, July 13, 2008

News about indietheater.org--Martin's Presentation at the 2nd Indie Theater Convocation

At yesterday's 2nd Indie Theater Convocation, there were three main presentations given to the assemblage. (I should note that it was a gratifyingly large assemblage--we filled the whole downstairs of the Barrow Street Theater as well as about half the mezzanine; very exciting!)

My main topic was the indietheater.org website, and how it has already grown and will continue to develop and expand to become, as attendee Gabriel Shanks puts it so nicely in his comment elsewhere on this blog, "the definitive internet port of call for downtown productions."

Here are my remarks from the Convocation:

I’m very gratified to see all of you here. Thanks for giving up part of your Saturday to be here with us.

Just in case you don’t know exactly who the heck I am -- I’m Martin Denton, and I’m the executive director of The New York Theatre Experience, or NYTE, which is a nonprofit corporation that supports the theatre community, especially the indie theater community, with programs such as NYTE Small Press, the nytheatrecast podcast series, and our websites nytheatre.com and indietheater.org.

All week, I’ve been hearing from people about the Convocation. I’ve been really touched by how much this gathering seems to mean to our community. Even the lady who is about 3 weeks away from opening North America’s largest multi-arts festival wrote to say she was bummed to miss our little event:

"Ugh. I'm heartsick. But our first two Mandatory ACR Box Office trainings are on Saturday, and we do a Noon and 3pm. Until we figure out this cloning thing...I'm sorry to report that I won't be able to join you this time. But I, and all of The Present Company and FringeNYC are with you in spirit, of course....Please give everyone my regards and we'll see them in August and after and let me know what y'all are cookin' up--I'm in. Much love, Elena K. Holy."

Now, before I proceed I have a very important thank you to make: we are absolutely thrilled to be here at the Barrow Street Theater, and right now we need to thank Scott Morfee and everyone here for their hospitality today. Scott and Barrow Street totally get indie theater. They’ve got a number of shows running this month, including this interesting piece from Theater Oobleck that I saw the other night and, at the end of the month, the great improv duo TJ & Dave. Check their stuff out!

So what are we going to do here this afternoon? First, NYTE’s Managing Director Rochelle Denton is going to offer some words of welcome. And then, a few other folks and I are going to be sharing some news with you about happenings in the world of New York indie theater that I hope you’ll find valuable. After that, we want to hear from you: the whole point of bringing all of you into a room together, after all, is so that we can communicate with each other in an immediate and meaningful way.

To begin: April 9th, 2006.

That was the date of the 1st Ever Indie Theater Convocation. I know that a lot of you were there, and I think that those who were will agree with me that it was kind of a landmark day. I mean, the room just exploded with energy and ideas.

At the 1st convocation, we learned a lot about what kinds of support and resources the community values and needs. It became clear that one of the key needs was for grassroots advocacy – a goal that NYTE was not and is not equipped to meet. But I am very proud to tell you that directly from the convocation has emerged an organization that is stepping up to meet that need: the League of Independent Theater. It has, literally, been two years in the making. John Clancy, first executive director of the League of Independent Theater, is going to tell you all about this later in our program.

And while that’s been going on, NYTE has been addressing many of the other burning issues that came out of the 1st Convocation.

Indietheater.org is the centerpiece of NYTE’s strategy to grow audience awareness and appreciation of the work you folks make. It has always been envisioned as something more than just a vanilla listings or events site. It is, to steal a phrase from my friend Kirk Bromley, an engine of enthusiasm for the art. I see it as a central hub for our community online, one that draws its strength from numbers. The more links we add from indietheater.org to your content, the more valuable a resource it becomes. And as more of you link your sites and blogs back to indietheater.org, the number of people who rely on it will grow—will grow exponentially.

NYTE left the first convocation with a strong commitment to build the indietheater.org website – to create a nexus on the Internet for audiences to learn about indie theater in New York. A lot has been accomplished since then:
· James David Jackson designed us a gorgeous distinctive logo.
· We’ve continually enhanced and augmented the design and content on the site, and our readership is growing by leaps and bounds.
· More than 10,000 people were on the indietheater.org home page during the first six months of 2008.
· 170 companies are listed on the indie theater directory on indietheater.org.
· More than 540 indie theater artists have been featured on our nytheatrecast podcast series – check out the names here.
· The Indie Theater Life series on nytheatrecast—an idea that was born at the 1st convocation, by the way, has featured amazing interviews with 9 indie artists so far and has been downloaded more than 2000 times.

When Broadway was temporarily shut down by the stagehands’ strike last fall, we posted prominent links to indietheater.org everywhere we could think to, encouraging theatre-goers to check out the indie theater offerings that were not affected by the strike. Readership on indietheater.org spiked by 50% during those weeks, and I’m sure that many of those readers gave indie theater a try as a result. I think we may have done some lasting good: readership of the indie listings is still up, more than 25%, from last year to this year.

We got some funding from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs to help us build indietheater.org in 2008 and we’ve applied for some more in 2009. My vision is that indietheater.org is going to become one of the cool spots on the web to find out about an entertainment/cultural alternative that feels like a secret but isn’t a secret any longer. We’re applying all sorts of Web 2.0 technologies – if you don’t mind me throwing out a buzzword – to show potential audience members what the art you folks create is all about.

In the last few months, we’ve added a dynamic news feed that automatically aggregates indie theater blog postings onto the front page of indietheater.org, where they can be seen by thousands of people every week. We’ve built a media center on indietheater.org, where videos posted by indie theater companies on YouTube are brought together, again where they can be sampled and played by our large diverse audience of readers. And we’ve been developing innovative approaches to previewing theatre festivals, which are such an important component of the indie theater experience in New York City, such as our new and very popular “20 Questions” feature for the undergroundzero festival.

The initiatives I’ve just mentioned are all brand new and just exiting their pilot stages. Today, I formally announce them to the community for the very first time, and invite everybody here to take part in them.

The best news about these initiatives is that they are unbelievably easy to implement. You can add your indie theater blog to our front page listings or add your preview and trailer videos to our media center – in less time than it just took me to say that.

I’m not going to explain exactly how this stuff works right now. Instead, I’m simply going to tell you that you will receive an email from me tonight that will explain everything. It will have links you can click on to see what all this looks like and how to make it happen. [Note: if you want a copy of this email, and/or want to join the indietheater mailing list, contact me now.]

And there’s more ahead. If the DCA funding comes through, we’re going to add an artist directory to the indietheater website—that’s something that was suggested back at Convocation #1. We’re looking to enhance venue info (without duplicating the great work of the NYC Spaces people), and we’re looking to expand the media center with photos from Flickr and audio.

The compelling, exciting, original content that all of this will bring together onto indietheater.org has immense significance. Think of it: a single resource on the Internet to learn about the hundreds of companies and productions that are the coolest and smartest and snappiest in NYC.

I feel like this sounds hard-sell and I don’t mean it to be. It’s here, now, waiting for your blogs and links and videos to power it.

I’m just about ready to turn things over now to John. Before, I do, I have one more thing to mention. We’re poised to transform indietheater.org into a killer website that’s going to be read not only by theater goers of every stripe but also by people who don’t even think about going to the theatre when they contemplate their options for a night out.

NYTE intends, in 2009, to launch a major marketing campaign whose goal will be to use technology to link up with nontraditional audiences and bring them into indie theaters. Right now, all we have is the germ of an idea here. So I’m inviting folks who are interested to sign up to join a task force to turn this idea into a reality.

To wrap up, I just want to say two things. First, watch for that email I told you about tonight! And second, thank you for listening and for trusting NYTE. I am so proud of what’s already come out of this—well, let’s call it a movement—that started on April 9, 2006. I am so excited to see what happens after today.

1 comment:

paula said...

great program, Martin!