Engaging through Selfies
SHN has made this season a truly social experience, which is a lesson worth learning. We do not experience art in a vacuum. We are influenced by our city, our neighbors, our friends, and the person sitting next to us in the theatre. The more local art groups can facilitate this sense of community amongst individual audience members, the more enriching an experience the art will be, and in turn the stronger the relationship will be with that individual and the organization.
Last weekend I attended Peter and the Starcatcher at SHN. The show was incredible, but what stayed with me over the days following the performance were the efforts made for audience engagement. Most artists and art administrators understand the crucial role of the audience to art. What would be the purpose of art if there was no one present to experience, engage with, and be moved by the work? Any performance is only half complete without an audience to be inspired by, and provide inspiration for the performers.
Nonprofit art organizations understand this better than anyone else. The audience is the lifeline of our organizations. Not only do we need their willingness to experience art to carry out our missions of bringing art to our communities, but we need their financial support to create that art. We base our work around the ultimate goal of building a relationship with each patron that inspires them to subscribe and donate. This relationship starts with audience engagement, but we struggle with how to engage our audience. What can we do that will be meaningful to the patron, but feasible for the staff?
It may seem difficult for a local theatre group to draw parallels to SHN. Local art groups cannot compete with the resources SHN has on hand, but they can learn from the overarching guideline that seemed behind all of SHN’s efforts – Know Your Audience. From the moment we stepped into the Curran Theater every effort was focused on audience engagement. The lobby was filled with posters of the cast and creative teams holding #SHNSeason signs. The programs were beautifully executed, and included a stuffer with how to connect through social media and promoting the contest for that night. What you could win wasn’t clear but the contest consisted of downloading the SHN app and taking a selfie with a stache a la Black Stache. It could not have been more on trend or more fun for the audience. Sure enough during intermission everyone around me was taking selfies. More than that, the audience members were interacting because they were all taking selfies. My picture was photo-bombed by a man that I never would have noticed otherwise.
It was a great experience and one that will stay with each audience member. We walked away raving about the show, and with pictures to remember it by. The SHN app is noteworthy as well. I may not open it again until I go to another show, but I won’t immediately delete it which is often the case. The app is complete with a leaderboard for those who have used the app the most that day, week, month, and all time. (A great lesson of how to get people to use your app from Zynga.)
I would have enjoyed Peter and the Starcatcher just as much if the guy behind me had not photo-bombed my selfie as Black Stache, but I certainly enjoyed the entire night more because he did.