Peeling Back the Curtain: Five Ways to Take Audiences Behind-the-Scenes
Arts organizations are a bit like icebergs: the part that the world sees – performances, exhibitions, installations – is just the tip, with a massive swell of hidden operations, rehearsals, logistics, and staff supporting the visible, experiential component.
The hidden aspects often hold a special fascination for audience members, and creating opportunities for the public to experience the behind-the-scenes operations are not only fascinating, but also beneficial. Introducing individuals to these significant processes greatly increases their sense of connection to a company, resulting in increased familiarity, loyalty, and involvement, while generating awareness in lead-up to an event.
With this in mind, we thought we would share some of the ways in which we give our audiences a glimpse behind-the-scenes:
1) Facebook & Twitter
We’ll start with the obvious. These conversational tools are most commonly used by arts organizations to post information about upcoming performances, but they can also give rare glimpses into the development process. Sharing updates from rehearsal and phone-snapped pictures of costume fittings and read throughs can be excellent ways to help audiences understand the timeline of mounting a show and the diverse array of work that goes into it.
A company’s blog represents a great opportunity to share longer thoughts than Facebook or Twitter, making it a perfect platform to share behind-the-scenes anecdotes or to familiarize audiences with a company’s personality. As an example, check out a recent Blackbird Theatre blog post, where actor Anthony F. Ingram provides insight on the company’s upcoming presentation of Waiting for Godot and what he has done to prepare for his role as Vladimir.
3) Online Video
The increased availability and ease of video recording makes this an extremely accessible way for arts and culture organizations to share and archive the inside happenings of a company. Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet has been making extensive use of the technology for years, producing an online documentary series for each new ballet the company creates. Watch the first episode for their newest ballet, Svengali, here.
4) Public Rehearsals
Welcoming the public into a creative space to watch a rehearsal or a class, is one of the most effective ways of sharing the artistic process. It imparts a very tangible understanding of what the rehearsal process looks like, which enhances an audience member’s appreciation for the final performance viewed on stage.
5) Pre-show Chats
Having a writer, choreographer, director, or performer host a conversation in the theatre lobby prior to the performance can be a very enriching experience for audience members. The host can provide significant context on how the work came to be, guide audience members on what to look or listen for in the piece, while adding the personal element of human contact between the organization and audience.
These are just a scant few of the innumerable ways that arts organizations can involve audiences in the intriguing process of bringing works to stage. We would love to hear what our readers have been doing to this end, and invite you to let us know about your initiatives in the comments field.