Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Working with the Artistic Staff to create exciting Marketing Opportunities

In the past couple months, Arena Stage has planned and executed several exciting marketing opportunities as a result of the great working relationship between the artistic development staff and the communications staff. This relationship has existed for as long as I have been with Arena Stage, and most likely well before that. However, too many times the artistic department and communications department view each other as adversaries in other companies, and sometimes are in direct conflict with each other. For example, it might serve the communications staff better if a reporter sits in on rehearsal, but the artistic staff might be concerned about the reporter interrupting the rehearsal process. The current economic crisis has opened new opportunities for dialogue between artistic and marketing personnel because it is becoming more and more obvious that companies which successfully navigate this crisis will be those that pull together and find new inventive ways of doing business.

The Finding Yolanda Casting Search was the most recent collaboration between the artistic development and communications departments at Arena Stage. We are producing our fourth production of Crowns this spring. Most regional theaters in the United States have a production or two that they bring back on a yearly basis, most commonly A Christmas Carol. However, after several years, it can become difficult to procure media coverage for these types of productions. With this in mind, we were looking for a new angle to garner attention from the local press. At the same time, our casting department was feverishly looking for a young, talented African-American woman to fill the role of Yolanda. Our casting director, Daniel Pruksarnukul, came up with an idea that accomplished both goals--an American Idol like contest to find Yolanda. The communications staff and artistic development staff pulled together to create an all day open call. It was sponsored by ABC7 and News Channel 8, each of which aired free 15 second promos for several weeks leading up to the auditions. The Finding Yolanda Casting Search also received coverage in the Washington Post, ABC7, News Channel 8, Back Stage Magazine, WTOP, WAMU (local NPR), DCTheatreScene.com, TheaterMania.com and BroadwayWorld.com. We invited our audiences to come and watch the open call as well, giving our audiences an inside look at what happens at auditions. The winner was announced on the ABC7 evening news.

This was a win-win for both departments. Casting found an extremely talented young lady to fill the role, and communications had an angle to pitch to the press.

Check out video of the winner. Congratulations Zurin Villanueva! Looking forward to working with you.

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