by Mo Brady
Do you want to change the future of theatre? Here’s a piece of advice:
Excel at talking to old people.
Let me explain.
You are important. Right now, you are the trendsetters. Online, you have ignored Facebook and email to embrace Snapchat and Instagram, steering the future of social media. In the theatre, you have turned shows like Heathers and Be More Chill from cult favorites into viable commercial properties. You can’t be stopped. But your ascent can be assisted.
In just a few decades, you will be steering our beloved industry into the future. From writing shows to producing to theatrical management to directing, you’ll be the next set of voices creating Broadway phenomenons and winning Tony Awards. This passing of the torch is inevitable, as more old white guys retire from their positions of power, making way for you beautiful leaders of every gender, ethnicity and background. It’s gonna be great.
However, this transition will take time. Not because you aren’t ready to lead, but because you don’t have control. And control comes from two sources: working for it or getting someone else who worked for it to give it to you. If you’d rather not wait decades to be leading the conversation on Broadway, learn how to communicate to the people who have control now.
How do those gatekeepers communicate? Not by building Instagram followings or YouTube subscribers. Not in the theatre, at least, where we hold tightly to our traditions. In the theatre industry, the leaders communication the new old-fashioned way: on websites and via email.
I see so many passionate young theatre lovers online sharing their ideas and opinions in mediums that have no sustainability. The ephemeral nature of platforms like Instagram stories and Snapchat have allowed a freedom from “the internet is forever” mentality. However, the flip side of ephemerality is that you have nothing to show for your work.
Here’s a personal example: two years ago, I was covering a New York theatre awards show red carpet for The Ensemblist. Using Instagram Live, we created an hour of content, engaging with the theatre community on the carpet and fans at home. But this engagement didn’t mean much to the award show’s press reps because there wasn’t any content they could direct their producers to after the fact.
Don’t let your quality content and smart ideas about theatre disappear into the ether of the internet. Put them in a place where they can easily viewed and (more importantly) easily shared. Launch a website. Start an e-newsletter. Post links to them on Facebook.
If you create content you think Broadway audiences will love, don’t post it in a place that deletes it a day later. If you champion a floundering musical, your Instagram story or Tumblr blog isn’t going to do squat to save it from closing. Because that's not where the gatekeepers look. Many of them probably don’t even know what Tumblr is and have never used Instagram.
If you want your voice to be heard, post it somewhere with a good old-fashioned URL. Eventually, you won’t have to pander to us old people. But if you want to make change now, post your idea somewhere your grandpa could find. Because the leaders of our industry ARE grandpas (and a few grandmas, but let’s be honest: mostly grandpas).