Dedicated Performance Experiences Not Really Controversial Until Race Is Involved

Over the weekend I caught a couple news articles out of the UK about a production which is carving out one performance in their run for black audiences only. The show, Tambo & Bones, which runs June 16 to July 15, is said to be taking a page from Jeremy O. Harris’ show Slave Play which included “Black Out” performances whose intent was to fill all the seats with Black identifying audience members in order to provide an environment in which they might feel completely free to interact with the artists and each other.

“The theatre’s website stresses that “no one is excluded”, but the accompanying promotional material hints strongly that white theatre-goers would not be welcome along on July 5.”

In answer to the objection that this constitutes a type of segregation, it was noted that theaters already provide dedicated performance experiences to various groups.

These include a “socially distanced and masked” show, one using British Sign Language, captioned and audio described performances, and a “relaxed environment” version, where those with autistic spectrum conditions are not expected to respect the normal theatre etiquette of remaining in their seats and observing silence.

Granted, most of those types of performances don’t emphasize an exclusivity in messaging as heavily as Tambo & Bones is. This seems to be one of those cases where there is no bad publicity. For one group, being emphatic that this performance is for you has a great appeal…and can create perhaps an even stronger, almost magnetic appeal for those who are explicitly being told one performance out of many isn’t for them.

Slave Play created a dedicated Black Out page to encourage and help others follow the example of the inaugural performances. Among the productions who have hosted Black Out nights are: Long Day’s Journey Into Night; A Commercial Jingle for Regina Comet; What to Send Up When It Goes Down; Marie and Rosetta; Choir Boy; as well as Jeremy O. Harris’ Slave Play and Daddy.

While the page mentions that two of the Black Out nights for Slave Play were invite only performances, it appears tickets for other performances following this approach were more publicly available for sale similar to how the Tambo & Bones tickets are. (Basically, I couldn’t find any news stories specifying they were invite-only private events.)

Symphonies Telling Stories Of Local Relevance

A link to a great story came across my feed today about a Hawaii Symphony Orchestra’s production that was really focused on resonating with the interests of the community they serve.  Last month, they performed an original work, Symphony of the Hawai’i Forests for school children. (Instagram video here.)

The program featured new music performed by the Hawaiʻi Symphony Orchestra (HSO) accompanied by new animations based on kaʻao (legends) that were created for this project that tell stories about how we can connect and care for our forests of Hawaiʻi.

Teachers were provided with online educational resources by the Mālama Learning Center about the forests of Hawaiʻi to prepare their students for the topics that would be covered during the symphony. Meanwhile, classes were encouraged to learn a hula about the water cycle so that they could then perform together en mass at the concert.

This was a significant undertaking that required collaboration with many partners, including state and federal forestry services, as well as those developing the animation, dance, and educational content. Programs like this will likely go a long way in showing students how a symphony orchestra can be relevant to their lives.

Following some other links, it appears they offer programming for adults along the same lines so it isn’t the case that kids intrigued by their symphony experience growing up only have the core classical canon as an option when they get older. In 2019, HSO presented an original concert paying tribute to the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s successful circumnavigation of the globe in 2017 using traditional navigation techniques on the voyaging canoe, Hōkūleʻa. (I wrote about the 40+ year effort to achieve that back in 2017) That too was a huge production involving over a thousand people between the singers, musicians, dancers, visual artists, etc. Again it emphasized the value of local stories to the community.


Striking While The Engagement Iron Is Hot

I was scrolling through Reddit while waiting for a show to end Friday night and happened upon a post that reflects great engagement by the St. Louis Blues hockey team.  A guy discovering hockey for the first time and bemoaning his city’s loss of the Rams football team back to Los Angeles gets an invite from the Blues to attend a game.

When the nascent fan, Tony X. says he wants to buy the jersey of the biggest underdog on the team, a team member responds suggesting his jersey and later offers to sign it. The Blues apparently captured Tony X’s picture at the game as well.

Given the hashtags on this, I assume it all transpired in 2017 and it just bubbled back up on Reddit as so many topics do. It still provides a great example of how to really grab someone and keep them engaged when their interest is piqued.  Many of the questions Tony X asks are similar to those first exposed to a new arts experiences – Why is that guy doing that? What should I wear?

Note that even though Tony X was a sports fan, his focus was on football so even though he knew some of what to expect from the experience, there were still some aspects that would be new and possibly intimidating.



What Is The Value Of A Press Release When News Stories Are Written By AI?

Many readers know that I recently moved from Macon, GA to take up a job in Colorado. Even before I moved, I was astounded by the number of articles that were being written about Macon, encouraging people to visit.  I kept asking what Visit Macon, the convention and visitors bureau was doing to encourage all this coverage which included Frommers, Southern Living, Yahoo! Conde Nast Traveler, AFAR, Bloomberg, Men’s Journal, INSIDER, CBS This Morning, and The New York Times. For a time I thought it was the ghost of the effusive vice president of sales and services for Visit Macon who died in September smiling down on the city.

As you might suspect all this success was the result of the work of a PR firm, TK PR. The folks from Visit Macon recently posted a newsletter piece from TK PR trumpeting their success promoting Macon. One thing that grabbed my attention was that they had gotten eight stories for Macon in 2022 resulting in 678 million impressions and $6.2 million in value at the cost of $0, plus 29 other stories for additional clients without once using a press release.

In the newsletter, TK PR founder, Taryn Scher, challenges readers to do away with press releases in 2023.

And while I can’t tell you in just a few sentences what we did to land each story, the one absolute thing we didn’t do to land any of these stories? Send a press release.

Y’all I hate to tell some of you this: but press releases died with the fax machine. If you are one of those few people who still relies on either, I’m sorry but I’m here to tell you it’s time to come on over into 2023. It’s nice out here. A little tech-heavy but we’re all adjusting.

Seriously though, you have to stop thinking that a press release is going to land you any sort of real quality media coverage.

Noting that CNET and others are publishing stories written by AI, she implies that living beings may no longer even be looking at press releases any more.   In this context, she suggests that waiting on someone to approve a quote that will appear in a press release is likely going to be a waste of your time.

Among the things to do instead is pitch the story directly:

That’s not to say the information isn’t important- but you need to take that who, what, when, and where and make it relevant to WHY NOW- why is this part of a bigger trend or relevant for the current news cycle? Why should a journalist care? And more importantly why will their readers care?