By FRANK RIZZO, firstname.lastname@example.org
11:53 AM EDT, March 24, 2013
Are Connecticut theaters missing out on a new audience? New engagement? New revenue?
The thought occurred to me when a colleague asked me a simple question: How can she buy a gift certificate for someone who can then choose whatever show they want at any major theater in the state? With so many terrific theaters around the state -- and not sure of the giftee’s tastes -- she didn’t want to be tied down to selecting just one theater, one show, one time.
She was responding to the ever-growing trend of “experiential” gift-giving. (In the past year or so, I’ve seen more and more wedding, anniversary and birthday requests to skip the certificates to Pottery Barn in favor of “experiential” activities, perhaps with the gift giver. A toaster is a toaster. But being in an audience thrilled with the wonder of “War Horse,” or “The Tempest” or “Peter Pan” is a memory that lasts a lifetime.
My colleague wanted her recipients the freedom -- indeed, the excitement -- of casting their eyes at a number of different shows at a number of different theaters in the state, and choose one of their own liking. (Hmm, if they couldn’t decide among many that appealed to them maybe they’d buy additional tickets on their own.)
Imagine getting a $100 ‘Connecticut Theater Club" gift certificate filled with nifty brochures to Hartford Stage, Goodspeed Opera House, Yale Repertory Theatre, Long Wharf Theatre, Westport Country Playhouse -- and so many more. Scanning these shows they might decide on Mikhail Baryshnikov in “Man in a Case,” Paul Giamatti in “Hamlet,” Judith Ivey in “Curse of the Starving Class,” the new musical “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” or a revival of “Hello, Dolly!” or the tour of “Book of Mormon.”
Participating theaters might even give cachet and perks to the Connecticut Theater Club, by having a gift certificate worth more than the dollar face value, or perhaps throw in free parking, a complimentary drink or another such amenity.
Take it a step further. Create a “Connecticut Theater Club for Kids” where someone can offer the gift of theater to a child in the recipient’s name. Or offer special gift theater packages specifically designed for children. (I can imagine grandparents -- weary of seeing the kids attend endless sports camps, soccer clinics and tennis lessons -- thrilled at giving the youngsters a chance to experience the arts for a change.)
The key to all this is to have multiple theaters participate so the choice of shows and the locations can be as wide and varied as possible. In joint efforts, marketing costs can be shared. This sounds like a great “branding” proposal the state could support, at least as a launch.
Take it a step even further. The “Connecticut Theater Club” could be not just for gift-giving but as a way to connect people to all sorts of activities at its many state theaters. With knowledge from this data bases, packages can be tailored to the recipient. If the member is into Shakespeare then information about the Bard’s shows at other theaters would be sent to the promising purchaser. Did members like “Spring Awakening?” Then maybe “Good News” isn’t for them. But “American Idiot” most certainly is and can be targeted to them. A member is a fan of farce? Well, maybe pushing Ibsen, isn’t so smart but if connections can be made at wild and crazy shows throughout the state then...Well, you get the picture.
But all this means theaters would have to think beyond their own houses and collaborate not only for a shared financial benefit for all, but because all of this is helping to develop new and younger audiences and strengthen the ones they already have. And that’s good for everyone.
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