The Art of the Business

A blog dedicated to artists who are serious about their business.

Demystifying Social Media: A Workshop March 30, 2009

I belong to a group of people that all to marketing for Arts Organizations, here in Vancouver. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know by now that we are suffering from loss of media coverage of our events, due to cutbacks in newspapers, and, this week, the CBC.

It seems, then, more important than ever, to learn about and take advantage of, new ways of generating publicity. For me, right now, it’s about social media. The problem with social media is that it is so new, and because of that, is constantly evolving. Plus, there is a dizzying array of sites out there–how can you possibly manage them all?

I’m so glad you asked. Simon Ogden and I have been asked to lead a workshop on Demystifying Social Media, specifically for Artists. This workshop will take place on May 5, 1-5 pm, at the Alliance for Arts and Culture (938 Howe St).

This four-hour workshop will help neophyte and experienced arts marketers and publicists to navigate this new world of opportunity. Site by site, we will:

  • introduce you to the language and etiquette of social media and Web 2.0
  • define its place in your personal marketing toolbox
  • dispel all those inevitable misconceptions that go hand-in-hand with emerging technologies
  • help you create a new media marketing plan that’s right for your organization

Workshop cost: $50 (+GST) for Alliance members, $75 (+GST) for non-members

Please phone 604-681-3535 or email to register.

Hope to see you there!

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Happy World Theatre Day! March 27, 2009

Filed under: World Theatre Day — Rebecca Coleman @ 8:42 am

I feel like it’s Christmas–the last few weeks of preparation have finally come to this: March 27–World Theatre Day!wtd-avatar2

Help us celebrate by going to the theatre, participating in a reading, aor  backstage tour. Introduce a friend to the theatre. Join the fun at one of the after parties.

Follow along on the World Theatre Day blog, or follow our Twitter feed.

I am so happy and proud to be one of you.



Wanted: Theatre Reviewers March 25, 2009

images1It’s a sad state of affairs, here in Vancouver. Theatre reviewers are becoming extremely rare. In the past few months, the Globe and Mail let go their Vancouver theatre reviewer, and cut their Vancouver theatre section entirely. Jerry Wasserman was let go from the Province, and now Peter Birnie, reviewer for our other major daily, The Vancouver Sun, has broken his leg, and is out of commission.

So that leaves Colin Thomas at The Georgia Straight, Jo Ledingham at The Vancouver Courier, the team at the Westender, and… well, that’s it. In an effort to cover as much as possible, the papers that are left are doubling up reviews. But, because they still have the same amount of space, it means reviews will be shorter, and shared.

I recently discovered a company out of New York called The NY Neofuturists. They have a kick-ass website, and a great blog (they are currently the darling of Theatre folks on Twitter for their Tweet Plays series).  They also have a page on Yelp.

As newspaper ink shrinks, and the internet blossoms, user-generated content becomes more and more plentiful, and, hopefully, important. So, here’s what I think: while I think traditional theatre reviewers are still really important, and thier opinion is useful, I also think it is useful to listen to our audience–the people who come to see our plays. So, the next time you produce a play, create a means for the audience to give you feedback. That might be encouraging them to post on your blog, your Facebook page, or getting yourself set up on Yelp. Let them know their opinion matters. And who knows, you might even learn something!

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State of the Union: Social Networking March 23, 2009

Okay, so I’m no Guy Kawasaki. I’m not even close to Seth Godin.  But some interesting things have happened over the last few weeks, and I wanted to share them with you.

imagesFirst off, Twitter just celebrated its third birthday. Originally used as a device for co-workers in the same office to talk to each other, Twitter began in March, 2006, at a company in San Francisco called Odeo. At last count, Twitter users worldwide are thought to be somewhere in the range of 6 Million.

facebook_badgeSecond, if you are a Facebook user (Facebook is the number 1 social media application in the world, right now), you’ll notice that they have rolled out a new interface. This is partly because Facebook tried to buy Twitter in November last year, and was unsuccessful. So, they have changed their interface to be more Twitter-like.

myspaceThird, I have given a couple of talks on social networking over the last couple of weeks, and I have been asked the question “what about My Space?” My response is always the same: if you are a musician, you should have a My Space page if you are a musician, otherwise….

What does all this tell us? Well, first of all, Facebook would not have tried to buy out Twitter, unless they saw them as some kind of threat. Their current redesign is further proof that they are worried about Twitter’s rapid growth. My Space is a good example of this. In June 0f 2006, My Space was the most popular social networking site on the internet, but it was eclipsed by Facebook in April 2008. My Space is now primarily used by musicians, which I think it is perfect for. Facebook, meanwhile, is sweating over Twitter’s growing popularity.

I have talked to a lot of people about Twitter over the last few weeks. Most people say the same thing–they feel like they should be on Twitter, because it’s so popular, and they hear about it all the time, but I also hear that people are unsure what to do when they join. Often they feel overwhelmed by the amount of noise going on, and are unsure about Twitter’s value to them.

Whenever I get a new follower, I like to check out their Twitter page, and if they seem like someone I have something in common with, I’ll follow them back. I’ve been super busy these last two weeks, so yesterday, I batched the nearly-100 new followers I’d gotten over the last couple of weeks. When I look at someone’s profile to see if I want to follow, I’m looking for a few specific things: a picture, a fully-filled out profile, a website. I will also glance at their last few tweets, and see if any of them present value: links, blog posts, information.

It was a bit of a wake-up call: not that many passed the test. It started me wondering: if someone stumbled over my Twitter page, and judged it on my values, would they follow me? Maybe. Maybe not.

Twitter is young, and there has been a lot of talk about how to take it to the future. Monetization, for example. For me, it’s my goal to use my social networking ability and my skills as a marketer to help people to begin to create a social media marketing plan for themselves or thier business, because this is an area that I see is sadly lacking.

So stay tuned… plans are in the works. And you’ll be the first to know.

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Hey, Vancouver–Come Celebrate Theatre: International Style! March 20, 2009

Filed under: Blogging,World Theatre Day — Rebecca Coleman @ 6:34 am
Tags: , ,

A while back, I posted about a new blog that I started with a group of theatre artists from around the world to celebrate World Theatre Day on a truly international basis. Since then, we have changed the URL of the blog to, and its look has been improved greatly, thanks to WordPress expertise of some of my fellow bloggers.

On World Theatre Day, March 27, the blog will act as a central hub for Theatre artists to connect and share thier celebrations with the rest of the world. So be sure to check the blog regularly on March 26, 27 and 28 (because people will be posting from different time zones).

Here in Vancouver, The GVPTA has a raft of stuff you can do to celebrate WTD. But the big party will be happening from 10:30 pm on at The Other Space (formerly The Queen Elizabeth Restaraunt, home of Hoarse Raven and Tony ‘n’ Tina’s Wedding). We will have the blog up on a computer there, so that you can check out the celebrations around the world, and perhaps add to them yourself!

See you there! If not in person, then virtually….



Fighting Chance brings RENT and Tick.. Tick… Boom! To Vancouver! March 18, 2009

There is arguably one guy in Vancouver who is a bigger RENT fan that I am, and that person is Ryan Mooney. Artistic Director of Fighting Chance Productions, next month, they mount a production of  tick…tick…BOOM! at The Jericho Arts Centre.

I interviewed him about the play, the life-changing phenomenon of RENT, and all that publicity around The Laramie Project.

TAOTB: Tick.. Tick.. Boom! Has it been produced in Vancouver, before?

RM: TTB has never been produced in Vancouver before. In fact I’d wager a bet that it’s never been produced in BC before. We’ve been very fortunate to “premiere” a few shows in the past few years in BC. One of our biggest hits, Musical of Musicals… the Musical was the BC premiere, as was Autobahn.

TAOTB: Why are you producing this play?

RM: I love the music. The show was put together after the immense success of Rent, after Jon died, which means that it wasn’t entirely finished. I think that what the producers did was excellent, given what they had to work with. TTB was originally a one man monologue that Jon did on stage by himself with a band. They took that and created a three person show that functions very well on it’s own. The music, as I said, is also stellar. It’s a story about a guy closing in on his 30th birthday and wondering what the fuck (can I swear? I think it’s more powerful) he’s doing with his life. He wants to write music and have a successful show on Broadway. He wants to make a career out of doing what he loves – and that’s something that I can relate to.

TAOTB: What is Larsen’s essential message?

RM: I’m not sure if there’s an essential message in TTB. There’s not even a specific resolve at the end of the show. What I think people will get from it though is the idea of – you can do what you want, and you can be happy at it… it just might not be possible for you to own a BMW. There’s sacrifices you have to make in life, crossroads you come to – and there’s no right or wrong decision – just the one you have to make.

TAOTB: This show was written more than 10 years ago… why is it relevant to today?

RM: For the same reason that Stephen Sondheim’s Company, which was written over 30 years ago is still relevant. There’s always going to be people turning 30 wondering what they’re doing with their lives and where they’re going in their lives. Their friends are getting married, having kids and they’re still trying to scratch out a living doing what they love. That’s timeless.

TAOTB: Fighting Chance is a relatively new theatre company in Vancouver, but you’ve gotten a lot of media attention. What has this journey been like for you?

RM: Intense. We went from the Musical of Musicals which was a huge hit at the Fringe (sold out 10 shows, got “Pick of the Fringe” sold out another 3) to The Laramie Project, which was supposed to be a bit more of a relaxing experience… then we got the call about Phelps coming to protest… and then it all blew up. We sold out all 12 shows of Laramie. My mom came to see the show and people offered her double what she paid for her ticket. It was insane. But after that we remounted both shows – to much lower attendance. The shows hadn’t really changed – the quality of work was still there, but it was January – I learned a lot from that, what to do next time… perhaps not to have two of our shows running at the same time. We had our first “AGM” in February just at my apartment and had a great group of people come out. It went from me doing a lot of the work myself (because we were so small I could) to having this great artistic advisory committee and board. It’s a very exciting time.

TAOTB: Tell me about your Jonathan Larsen/RENT obsession.

RM: I have a funny feeling this is going to be a story that I’ll be re-telling for months to come.

When I was in grade 12 Rent came to town at the Vogue. It was the first time it had been here. I had listened to the CD – but it wasn’t too much a part of my life at that point. We decided we wanted to do the rush line up. We headed into downtown Granville Street at about 1 int he morning (we had heard that people lined up early.) and so here we are – 5 kids on Granville Street on a Friday night at one in the morning. And, of course, nobody had lined up yet – so we wandered for a bit, and under Robson Street where they used to do Ice Skating. We hung out there until about 7 in the morning when people actually start lining up. It was an incredible experience. Rent left my life for a few years until it toured here again to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. I saw it twice there and just fell in love with that cast. Friend and I traveled to San Francisco to see it again (5 times in 3 days), where I met a guy named Kevin Spencer who ended up playing Roger in another tour. So we went to Bellingham to see him twice (in one day). The last time I saw it was in NYC at the Nederlander. It was such a special experience, and the last time I had seen it. I chose not to see it at the Centre. If there’s on thing I’ve learned Rent works best in intimate theatres.

TAOTB: What’s next for Fighting Chance?

RM: Funny you should ask – we just got the rights to be the Canadian Regional Theatre Premiere of Rent. It’s huge for us – and we announced it two days ago and have already received upwards of 50 headshots and resumes. There are people messaging me on Facebook asking if we need people for the band. This show touches people in such a way that people who normally wouldn’t be interested in musical theatre, all of a sudden are. It’s very very exciting to be a part of it. And to be bringing it to Vancouver in (I hope) a way that people haven’t seen it before.
Also,  after TTB, we are doing a three week run of two of Neil Labute’s plays that have never been done here. some girl(s) and The Distance from Here at the Havana Theatre. Both Vancouver premieres again and both I am stoked about. It’ll be the first time someone else has directed for Fighting Chance and I’m thrilled that Matthew Clarke, who was a part of our first show Autobahn and also The Laramie Project will be making his directorial debut with The Distance from Here.

Tick… Tick… BOOM! runs April 7-22 at the Jericho Arts Centre, and RENT runs August 1-16, at a location yet to be determined.

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Why Theatre? March 16, 2009

Filed under: Business of Arts,Life,World Theatre Day — Rebecca Coleman @ 6:30 am

Last week, I did an interview with David Diamond for the World Theatre Day Blog. One of the questions I asked him was: why theatre? Here is his response:

It’s about our ability to be transformed through the theatre. Communities, like people, have the need to storytell. To collectively process fears, desires, anger, sadness…. when communities lose the ability to do this, they get sick – just like people do. It is pretty basic that we need to express our emotions to be healthy. Theatre is the language through which this can happen.

Humans think, not in sentences, but in metaphors. That’s what makes art powerful–it is expressed in metaphors. What makes good theatre is the transformational power of the work. You can have a play that has the highest production values possible, but how can it be good theatre if it has no transformational ability – if the audience isn’t challenged – pushed into disequilibrium in some small or large way? Conversely, a show in a black box with no costumes or set may very well be good theatre if you walk away from it having changed in some way.

It started me thinking… of all the careers I could have chosen, and probably been successful at, I chose theatre. Why?

The reasons are very clear to me, but it’s been a while since I expressed them. So, here goes…

1. It just fits. In Tennesee William’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Brick talks about waiting for the ‘click’ in his head while he’s drinking. After the click, he goes to his ‘happy place’, if you will, where he is not bothered by the storms around him.

For me, Theatre is my ‘happy place’. I feel more at home, more alive, and more kinship when I am at the theatre than anywhere else. I remember so clearly my first experience on stage in front of an audience. I was 18, and playing a fairy in A Midsummer Night’s Dream in a college production. I was so terrified, I was practically throwing up back stage, but I went on, and when we went out for the curtain call, standing there on stage with all those other wonderful theatre artists, I just knew I was home.

2. Theatre is the greatest of all the arts. Okay–I know some of you might argue with me, here, but for me, theatre combines so many of the arts–music, visual, writing, I think it’s the king. And I continue to go to the theatre seeking out jaw-dropping, heart-stopping moments of perfect theatrical creativity and brilliance. I don’t find them often, but I crave them, and continue to seek them out.

3. The people. “There’s no people like show people.” It’s true. I count myself lucky to have found a community that accepts and includes me. Some people search for that all thier lives, and I have found it in my fellow theatre artists.

4. Flow. “Flow” is a term coined by psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. According to him, Flow is characterized by a “mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.”  The only moments in my life where I feel I have truly experienced flow have been on stage, or in class. I called them “orgasmic theatre moments,” and each one is still perfectly clear in my head.

But enough about me. How about you? Why are you a theatre artist? I want to know!

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Backstage with Carmen Moore March 13, 2009

Filed under: interview,Local Shows — Rebecca Coleman @ 7:17 am
Tags: , ,

I’m starting an interview series! Because… well. Just because I want to. And it’s my blog.

To kick it off, the lovely and talented Carmen Moore. You’ll probably remember her best at Simone, the sexy bartender from Godiva’s. Or maybe as Rebecca from Carl Bassai’s Unnatural and Accidental. She returns to the stage this month, after a 12-year hiatus. This Jessie- and Leo-nominated actor plays the lead role of Lu-Anne in Yukon playwright Patti Flather’s Where the River Meets the Sea, opening March 20 at Presentation House Theatre.

RC: What brings you back to the stage?

CM: I have been missing theatre for 12 years. I think it would have been a little traumatic for my son while he was very young to take that kind of time away from him… he would be in school all day, and then not see me at night while I’m doing a show. Also, the whole money thing! I have been a single parent for most of his life, so childcare was an issue… while doing film and TV I made enough to pay for childcare while working, but it’s just not possible with theatre! Jaden is now old enough that he really likes being given some freedom and trust to take care of himself. He can do 11 year old boy things without his mother looking over his shoulder!

RC: Tell me about Lu-Anne. Do you see yourself in her? Or are you more dissimilar?

CM: I think there are always aspects of yourself in characters you choose to play.  I’m definitely becoming aware of things about myself that I don’t necessarily like, playing this character! I think that she’s holding on so desperately to everything important to her, so fearful that she’s going to lose it all, that she’s actually pushing it away. I don’t think that’s something that I alone do… maybe everyone does it to a certain degree. Isn’t that where the saying ‘if you love something, set it free’ comes from?!   I am seeing how that kind of fear really makes us crazy!

RC: The cast includes two younger women, one of whom plays your daughter. Do you feel like you are in a mentorship position to the younger actresses in the cast?

CM: I don’t ever feel like I’m in a mentorship position… at least it never occurs to me! I don’t think it would be good

As Lu-Anne in Where the River Meets the Sea

As Lu-Anne in Where the River Meets the Sea

for my ego! I might get a little carried away! I certainly hope that I can be an inspiration, but it’s not something that I assume I’m doing. I’m at a stage in my career where I do realize that I’ve been doing this for close to 20 years (Oh good golly…), and that someone just starting out may look to me for guidance or inspiration, but it takes a lifetime to learn this craft… and I’m still learning every step of the way. I’m human; sometimes I have no clue what I’m doing! I make mistakes… and I try to learn from them like everyone else.

RC: Your boyfriend, David Patrick Flemming, plays your love interest in this play. What’s it like to work with your boyfriend on stage?

CM: Working with David is something that I’ve wanted to do for sometime now! He’s an incredible actor and writer and I’ve always been inspired by his creativity and his ability to invent characters that are so interesting and funny. He’s so much more talented than I! I thought at first it might be uncomfortable and intimidating, but not at all; he gives me so much to work from. It’s also been very nice to debrief after rehearsal; get some insight from someone you love and trust that understands what it is you’re going through in this process because he’s a part of the process too…

RC: You have a young son: does he show any interest in becoming an actor? If he did/does, how would that make you feel?

CM: Jaden did a few commercials when he was very young and got a couple of jobs from being in the waiting room at my auditions! But, he had a gift for the ‘crying’ and ‘upsetting’ roles and he said to me one day sadly “I only want to do happy roles”… poor kid! Then, he was introduced to organized sports… and it was all over, much to my relief. As much as I love acting, the industry itself can be heartbreaking and if I can deter him from getting into it, I will! Forever the protective mother! I think he’s more interested in being in the NHL at this point…

RC: What’s next for Carmen Moore?

CM: I’m not really sure what’s next for me…which brings me back to the heartbreaking and difficult industry. You never know what’s coming next, which can be really hard. I just shot a pilot that I can’t really talk about, but I’m pretty proud of.  The producers will shop that around and see if anyone wants to throw money at us to get the series up and running… it’s always nice to have a steady job… but you never know, and it’s always back to the audition process…

Thanks, Carmen!

Carmen’s website

Carmen’s IMDB page

Presentation House Theatre

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How Businesses are Using New Media for Publicity March 11, 2009

The mainstream media is shrinking. We’ve established that, and whether it’s temporary or permanent, only time will tell. In the mean time, we still need to get people through the door. Here are three examples of what some companies are doing to take advantage of new media.

The British Columbia Institute of Technology (where I took my small business course in 2007), in a bit to bring in new students, hosted a 67-hour live-blogathon. They Twittered, blogged and uploaded video from  Wednesday night through Saturday afternoon. BCIT was also gave away $5000 in tuition to five people. You can see information on Three Blog Nights here, and the blog here.

Meanwhile, in Portland, a company called Portland Centre Stage invited a bunch of people to come to the opening of thier latest show, Apollo, and Twitter it. The experiment was at least partially successful–thier show was top five in Twitter traffic that night. Read more about this experiment here.

And in January, The Vancouver Opera invited three bloggers to come and live blog and Twitter a performance of their

Image courtesy of Miss 604s Flickr stream

Image courtesy of Miss 604's Flickr stream

latest Opera, Carmen. The show was a sell-out. They repeated the process this last Saturday night with Rigoleto. You can read the Vancouver Opera blog here.

What I think is most interesting about these three examples is that they were a success (at least to some degree) on two different levels. The actual event of blogging and Twittering created a buzz around the event in the moment. But, later on, all three of these stories were picked up by bloggers and the mainstream media. Read Gillian Shaw’s story about Three Blog Nights  in the Vancouver Sun. And read about Rebecca Bolwitt’s experience of live blogging the Opera in the Vancouver Courier.

What’s happening is that businesses, arts-related or otherwise, are turning to new media for publicity, because they see that the traditional media is failing.  And, while that is working, they are also reaping bonus rewards: stories in the tradional media about their innovations in social media marketing.

Ironic, huh?

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Are we losing the mainstream media? Part 2 March 9, 2009

Filed under: Arts Marketing,Business of Arts — Rebecca Coleman @ 12:33 am
Tags: , , , , ,

A couple of weeks ago, I put up a post that outlined cuts to the local arts coverage.

It’s happening all over again. This week, Jerry Wasserman, a local theatre critic that writes for Vancouver’s Province newspaper, had this on his website:

Sad to report that after four excellent years Jerry will no longer be reviewing theatre for The Province newspaper.  Canwest/Global, like Canada’s other media conglomerates, has been hit really hard by the recession. Struggling to stave off bankruptcy, Canwest is radically cost-cutting in all its divisions.  Freelancers are among the first to go.  This is an unfortunate situation for Vancouver’s arts community in that it loses one of the major venues in the region for formal theatre reviews.  Arts and entertainment editor Carey Gillette wants the community to know that The Province will still preview plays and profile theatre artists, and she hopes that when the economy turns around, Jerry and his reviews will be back in the paper. Carey is a great supporter of ours; don’t blame her. Things are tough in the media biz.

Last week, several cuts were also announced at A-Channel in Victoria, and 24Hours, a local free daily, laid off Graeme McRanor, their entertainment reporter. Modern Vancouver Woman (formerly Shared Vision) folded entirely, and My Vancouver (formerly Vancouver Lifestyles Magazine) is on extended hiatus.newspaper

So, what’s an artist to do? The media is involved in a vicious cycle: folks can’t afford to buy advertising, so newspapers are having to cut back or fold entirely. This creates less editorial space for those of us that probably didn’t have the money to advertise to start with.

So, what to do?

If you haven’t already, I’d encourage you to jump into social media. While traditional media outlets are struggling, content continues to grow on the internet. Get a Google Reader account and start getting to know some bloggers. Start your own blog or start Twittering. Get involved with Flickr, YouTube or Facebook.

We have to be creative and start to think beyond the traditional media outlets we have relied on in the past. Check in on Wednesday when I post three specific examples.

UPDATE, JULY 6, 2009: Another one bites the dust. Paul Grant, a 30-year vetran of our local CBC radio, is set to retire at the end of the summer. Paul had a daily segment on The Afternoon Show called The Arts Report, and has done numerous stories on shows I have been working on. The Arts Reporter position will not be replaced, so yet another outlet for arts stories is now gone.

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