Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Kudos for nytheatre.com Contributors

Today we got some very good news about some of the folks who write reviews for nytheatre.com. Several of our contributors were nominated last night for New York Independent Theatre Awards! As a past winner myself, I have an idea how these folks are probably feeling right now. Congratulations--this accolade is richly deserved!

These are the people I'm talking about:
  • Gyda Arber, nominated for her inventive production Suspicious Package
  • Nat Cassidy, a triple threat: nominated for writing and producing The Reckoning of Kit & Little Boots and for directing Any Day Now
  • Ivanna Cullinan, nominated for her delightful performance in The Granduncle Quadrilogy: Tales from the Land of Ice
  • Edward Elefterion, nominated for his choreography/movement for Shadow of Himself (Ed was named Best Director last year)
  • David Fuller and Judith Jarosz of Theater Ten Ten, whose production of The 103rd Annual Performance of Ruddigore, or The Witch's Curse, Presented by Murgatroyd's Hospital for Mental Rehabilitation, Ruddy Gore Maine is nominated for Best Production of a Musical
  • David Ian Lee, nominated for his leading performance in The Reckoning of Kit & Little Boots and also as a member of the ensemble of Universal Robots

(And speaking of Universal Robots: that play by Mac Rogers, which is published in my anthology Plays and Playwrights 2008, received several other nominations, including a nod for Best Full-Length Script.)

So, hearty applause for these talented folks. I appreciate the great service they perform for the indie theater community and am very glad to see them honored in this way!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

nytheatre.com Wins Microsoft Grant

Today I am thrilled to announce that The New York Theatre Experience, Inc. has won a significant grant from Microsoft Corporation and Techsoup. This is major recognition for our small nonprofit company and we have been amazed and humbled by the news since we first learned it about ten days ago. The official announcement is here.

This grant comes as a result of our winning the Show Your Impact competition sponsored by Microsoft and Techsoup. Hundreds of nonprofits entered this competition. Each was asked to demonstrate how the software they received from Microsoft (through their donation program with Techsoup) benefitted the community they serve. You can read what we wrote here.

In order to be a finalist for this competition, we needed to show support from our community--and you may recall that I asked for that a couple of times on this blog. Thanks to the fantastic enthusiastic indie theater community, we did make the finals. And thanks to the Microsoft and Techsoup judges--who found merit in our write-up and felt that indeed NYTE has used technology in ways that have had a positive impact on our constituencies--we are one of three prize winners.

We will be receiving a $5,000 cash grant from Microsoft, along with a donation of $25,000 worth of Microsoft software.

So first of all: major major thanks to everyone who reads the nytheatre i blog and took the time to vote for nytheatre.com's submission in this competition. Rochelle and I can't begin to tell you how much your support means to us, and how excited we are that our friends and colleagues in the indie theater community made this grant possible for us.

Shout-outs to folks who really went the distance to help us make it into finals: Nita Congress, Julie Congress, Elena K. Holy, Gus Schulenberg, Matt Freeman, John Clancy, Jon Stancato, the folks at NYITA, and others whom I may have inadvertently left off this list.

So, what does this Microsoft grant mean to NYTE and to the folks we serve?

Well, one of the things that really thrills me is what this grant represents for the indie theater movement. Here we have a giant corporation--Microsoft--choosing to recognize a small nonprofit company whose bailiwick is promoting and advocating for indie theater. If that's not a major act of validation, affirming the importance and impact of the incredible art created by the thousands of playwrights, actors, directors, producers, designers, etc. who are both the main contributors to and subjects of nytheatre.com--well, then I don't know what is.

The other two winners of the competition--a food bank in Cincinnati and a service organization that created an intelligence hub for nationwide disaster relief coordination--exemplify the kinds of nonprofits that I expected to receive these grants. I am immensely gratified to know that what we do--helping to make sure that the world knows about the work of indie theater artists--is viewed by objective outsiders as being as worthy a cause as these others.

So, my friends and colleagues in the indie theater world: pat yourselves on the back! This grant is recognition of the great work you do.

Which brings me to the most important part of this long, rambly essay: what will the grant mean to the readers and artists we serve on nytheatre.com?

The cash grant, obviously, is a real boon for NYTE, especially given the current economy. But the real impact to our community of this Microsoft grant will come from the new web features and services that we will be able to develop as a result of receiving all this software. I have only just started to plan out what we will be getting and, more importantly, what we will do with it. Over the coming weeks and months, the new infrastructure/development plans that this software grant will fuel will become clearer and I'll be sharing them as that happens. But I do want to mention some of my preliminary ideas with you now.

First, we'll be able to upgrade our data base system to the most current full-featured version available. We'll also be able to upgrade the "back-end" development software--the programs I use to track and manage all of the data that feeds our websites--to the most state-of-the-art versions. Together, these will result in a variety of new features and enhancements to nytheatre.com that I hope we will start to roll out as early as this fall.

Some of the software grant will be in the form of applications geared toward administrative tasks, such as budgeting and project management. If we can make use of up-to-date software solutions to become more productive in these areas, we will have more time to spend on developing nytheatre.com "stuff" that is directly beneficial to our readers and users.

We should be adding some new web development software to our existing "repertoire" that will make us more effective in creating "Web 2.0" applications on nytheatre.com and also in creating mobile applications.

And we're looking at communications and other server software that may help us transform our entire workflow concept, so that we can be more efficient and perhaps facilitate how we work with our volunteer contributors.

Rochelle and I are having a blast right now, indulging in some pie-in-the-sky dreaming about where this grant can take us in the next 12 months. We're researching ebook technologies, language translation technologies, and a whole new paradigm in managing/thinking about the data that supports all of our websites. This is feeling like the most transformational event for our organization since our first NYSCA grant in 2002.

And--because this recognition (and funding) comes from a source outside of our traditional funding community (outside New York, outside the theatre world)--it is immensely validating to our organization and to our mission.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

nytheatre NOW

The nytheatre i is back from our 4th of July hiatus.

And we come bearing NEWS about something NEW on nytheatre.com.

Maybe you've already noticed it... if you look at the sidebar on the left-hand column of the site, you'll see the links, right at the top under the heading "Now Playing": Tonight and Tomorrow. These take you to pages that display just what they say--listings of what's playing tonight and tomorrow, organized by the hour. So now, whenever you're thinking to yourself "Gee, I wonder what's playing tonight (or tomorrow)," it'll be super-easy to find out the answer. Bookmark these pages and refer to them often.

nytheatre NOW (as we are calling this new feature) is only the first of many improvements, enhancements, and additions to nytheatre.com that are coming over the next several months. I am eager to hear feedback about it--what you like and don't like. I also want to hear from you about what new features you'd like to see here on nytheatre.com. Comment here on the blog, or send me an email if you prefer.

But wait, there's more. We have created a version of nytheatre NOW specifically for the iPhone. It's a special feature, specifically designed to match the look and feel of the iPhone, and you can only see the iPhone version on an iPhone. (If you have your iPhone handy, check it out now: type www.nytheatrenow.com in your Mobile Safari browser.) (If you don't have an iPhone, you can use the regular nytheatre NOW feature on your desktop or laptop. Same information, just a different non-iPhone-esque interface.)

The iPhone version of nytheatre NOW is in beta right now, which means we are welcoming feedback from users as they try it out. Again, comment right here on the blog or send an email.

Why are we building a special iPhone feature? Well, we acquired an iPhone a few months ago, and I have to say that it's darned impressive. My sense is that more and more of our readers are using nytheatre.com on mobile devices like the iPhone. Our usage/traffic logs tell us that more than half of all readers who view nytheatre.com on a mobile device are on an iPhone. So this seems like a market segment to pay attention to. We plan to pay even more attention during the coming months. If you're an iPhone person, let me know...and let me know what you'd like to see, nytheatre-wise, on your device.