Is it necessary to add virtual to your development tasks? YES. Are you uncertain or even scared about this? YES. Should you continue to do it anyway? YES.
But only if you want to get your play in front of more people.
I remember when cable tv was just beginning to be a force in the industry in the 80’s. At the time I was the new Programming Director for a new cable channel (I was young and came cheap), and my task was to find and develop programming for a voracious new 24-hour cable channel. The demands of providing content were enormous, as the beast was insatiable. We had to air everything we could license as often as possible, with multiple repeats of every episode to make sure that something was on the air 24 hours a day, every day. It was exhausting.
The need today is similar with social media. You should always be broadcasting something to create an awareness of yourself as a professional in the industry. This is not easy! I constantly try to do better, because I must. As theater professionals we must first do the work but then also promote and disseminate it to as broad an audience as possible (hence the term broadcasting). It is as exhausting today as it was back in the early days of cable.
Virtual readings and performances, promotional videos and “happenings” are all proven strategies to promote yourself as a successful playwright (even if you don’t consider yourself one yet). But you must first carve a space for yourself online.
How to Add Virtual Content
The ability to add virtual content to your website and promotional materials is well worth the effort. Plays and musicals that consistently promote themselves online brand themselves as ready for production. Is your show ready for production?
If the answer is yes, then concentrate regularly on broadcasting yourself and your play to the public by embracing virtual content.
- Promote your show online. It goes without saying that each of your shows should have a website, Facebook page and/or an Instagram site, and a NPX page. Musicals should add a YouTube channel. You must be “discoverable” when people look you up, and have a contact page if people want to make contact. Update these as often as possible with audience testimonials, “coming soon” notices, sizzle reels, etc.
- Plan a reading. Put it out to your email list and promote free tickets to attend. Build up to the reading with regular content to promote your actors, director, and yourself. If you can record the reading (for archival use only), do so in order to share later with interested prospects. Capture outstanding feedback from audience members for written (or video) content.
- Make demos of your music. Record excellent quality musical demos to put on your website and on YouTube with playlists.
- Plan “happenings.” Be creative and plan events at local spaces to promote an awareness of your work. Have a play about immigrants? Interview real life characters that speak to the themes in your play and livestream the discussion on Facebook live. Do you have a musical that speaks to young girls? Partner with an establishment that has that audience and then plan an event centered around your musical to promote it. Get your work in front of your target audience as often as possible, and record everything.
- Have a professional sizzle reel. A great sizzle reel makes your work stand out from the others online and makes it memorable. A sizzle reel becomes your online pitch that works even when you sleep – so make sure it is everywhere you have want to have a presence. Also, a good strategy is to link your sizzle reel to your email signature page so it’s available to everyone that you communicate with – if they know you they should know about your show.
Scared? Do It Anyway
I have a phrase that has helped me get through everything in life that has frightened me out of my wits, but the I knew I had to do anyway.
“If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.”
That may seem counter-intuitive to you, and you may even be shocked that I’m recommending it. But the way I think of it is, this saying gives me permission not to be perfect. Sometimes just crossing the finish line, even in last place, is a success. And, if repeated often enough, you’ll just get better and better each time.
So give yourself permission to go virtual “imperfectly.” Just do it.
Rinse and repeat.
I’ll be taking my own advice this year and helping others do go virtual with me. Will you be one of them? Join ETC and get in on the action. We’re adding new members in September.
Interested in learning more about The Experts Theater Company? Register for our free OPEN HOUSE on August 30th!