10 Things TheaterMakers Can Do During The COVID-19 Quarantine.
I know our minds are all a bit mushy right now as we try to make sense of what is happening today and what will happen tomorrow. But one way to take your mind off the CNN ticker is to put your focus on doing something you love.
That’s a bit more challenging for TheaterMakers since the definition of what we do is all about gathering together in groups, whether that’s for rehearsals or performances or even just a hash-it-out, no-ideas-barred, creative meeting.
But it’s essential during this @#$%-ing Corona Crisis that we all keep making theater. Because I believe when we come out of this, and we will, we’re going to be so starved for human connection, that we’re going to need even more group-gathering events like the theater like never before.
And while it’s challenging to do what we do right now, it’s not impossible.
That’s why I came up with these 10 Things TheaterMakers Can Do During The Corona Quarantine to help you become a better TheaterMaker.
1. Write something, anything, new.
Broadway is currently shut down until April 13th. Challenge yourself to write a new play, musical, one-person show, 10-minute play, short story, novel, screenplay, whatever IN THESE NEXT 30 DAYS. There’s a quote that’s going around social media to TheaterMakers that says, “Just a reminder that when Shakespeare was quarantined because of the plague, he wrote King Lear.”While I like that post, I’d amend it to say, “he wrote THE FIRST DRAFT of King Lear.” Don’t put pressure on yourself. Just puke something up. Here’s a great tool to help you do just that. Once you do that, you’ll be ready to shape it into the next King Lear.
2. Have a virtual reading.
I’m doing this one myself! We’ve got a brand new draft of one of our musicals, and we’re going to read it (because we’re at that stage) . . . online! Get your creative team together on Zoom or Google Hangouts, assign each other parts and read the effin’ thing. Remember plays and musicals were not meant to read like a book. They need to be heard out loud. And you can still learn a lot from hearing it out loud online.
3. Read “The Classics.”
This is another one that I’m doing right now that I’ve been dying to find the time to do. Whenever I am working on a project, I like to read the “classics” to try to understand why they are classics, where my project may be lacking, and to let their mastery of those Authors seep into my brain. For example, I’m working on a couple of books of musicals right now, so I’m reading the scripts for the shows that have won the Tony Award for Best Book of a musical for the last ten years.Advanced tip: When you look to pick up a “classic,” I’d encourage you to niche yours down to whatever genre you are writing. If you’re writing a comedy . . . read the “10 Best Comedies.” If you’re writing drama, farce, political play, courtroom drama, etc, find those similar pieces. It’s amazing what you’ll learn. You will be better for it.
4. Learn What You Don’t Know.
I believe the best TheaterMakers are the ones who know what it’s like to be in another TheaterMaker’s shoes. Writer who has never directed? Pick up a book on directing. Director who doesn’t read or write music? Take an online music class. Actors who only act? Now is the time to take those online singing lessons. The more you know, the more valuable you are. And if you learn a new theater-related skill during this dark time, when our curtain rises again, you could find yourself more marketable than ever before.
5. Build Your Website (Or Get Yours In Order)
Every TheaterMaker is an entrepreneur (or “Artrepreneur” as I like to say) running his or her own business. And every business needs a website. If you don’t have one, get one. Find a work-from-home freelancer from all over the world to build it for you. Build one yourself here. Or email me and I’ll give you the names of some people in our business who know how to get a site up for you, and fast. Already have a site? How’s it looking? Updated with your latest news and photos? Some people are getting their houses in order this week. Use this time to get your website in order. It’s the front door of your business. Make sure it’s welcoming.
6. Find A New Collaborator
This is a great time to go on a FEW dates with some new collaborators. Get on your social media and say exactly that . . . you want to go on an e-date with a new book writer, a new lyricist, a new composer, etc. Find one and write! But listen . . . one of the reasons why most collaborations go wrong is that they start out trying to get married first. In other words, they say, “Let’s write a musical together.” Don’t try that. Write a song together. Write a 10 Minute Musical together. Write a one-act play together. Write something short so you can see if you are compatible. One of the greatest ways to build a FUTURE collaboration is to have a very quick success. The other benefit of writing something short . . . is that you can do this with several folks at once, until you find “the one.”
7. Start Your List.
As an Artrepreneur, you’re going to need other people to come to your shows, listen to your music, donate to your kickstarters, etc. You’re going to need to get your message out and fast. And the most effective way to do that is via email. That’s right, it’s NOT social media. Email is still the best form of marketing for small businesses (and that’s what you are – a small business). Every single Artrepreneur should have a list, armed and ready to deploy on a moment’s notice.One of the biggest issues my consulting clients come to me with is, “My show opens next week and I haven’t sold any tickets,” or “My show opens in a month and I haven’t raised any money yet.” When I poke and probe, I usually find out that these folks haven’t organized or exploited their most valuable marketing asset . . . their own contacts! So this week, put all your contacts in a MailChimp or on a Google Sheet or anywhere you can . . . . 1, quickly deploy it and 2, constantly update it. Bottom line is . . . the Artrepreneurs with the biggest lists of contacts wins. Start yours today.
8. Start ANOTHER business.
My first “Acting as a Business” teacher used to hate when any of us said we were going to wait tables. “Waiting tables is just that . . . waiting. Do something else instead where you can take control of your destiny!”I started a resume-building business right then and there.90% of all Artrepreneurs out there have to have a “day job” while they pursue their passion. And I know some folks who are amazing at balancing their “other 8 hours” while having successful careers as attorneys, eye surgeons, homemakers (the hardest job around, btw).
But what if your job didn’t require you to show up from 9 to 5? This is a great time to pursue what so many folks have done over the last 5 years . . . and start an online business. Maybe it has to do with the performing arts, or maybe not. Sell your crafts on Etsy (that list we just created in item #7 will come in handy here). Open an Amazon store. Get your real estate license. Offer to help type people’s script into Final Draft. Create your own “day job” that gives you the flexibility to do what you really want to do . . . from home. 🙂
9. What’s your Social Media Strategy?
Don’t get me wrong by what I said about email vs. social media in Tip #7. Social Media IS still important. It’s just a different type of messaging than email. Social media is “social” by nature . . . it’s not “sales.” It’s about what you can post that brings value to other people, not about what brings value to you.That “value” can be in tips and inspiration or it can simply be in making people laugh (which is even more important now that ever.) Whatever value you provide, here are my three steps to a good social media strategy:
a. Establish yourself on all the social media platforms, but pick ONE that you’ll focus on. Maybe it’s Instagram, Facebook or even YouTube. But make one platform your central focus and use the others to push people towards that content.
b. Decide how many times you’ll post per day, or per week, and stick to that schedule. Doing this with my blog is one of the reasons it became popular back in 2008 (!) when I started it. It wasn’t only about the content, it was that it was dependable content. Use the old TV cliche, “Same time, same channel.”
c. Share other people’s content to get people to share yours. Reciprocity in the social media world is even more powerful than the “regular” world because it’s so easy to share, repost, tag, etc. When you’re a fan of other folks online, they’ll often repay the fan-favor.
10. What can I do to help you?
Lastly, and this is a great thing for not only all TheaterMakers to do, but for all people to do throughout these upcoming weeks. One of the most powerful efforts we can make right now is to reach out to others and see how we can help. That’s right . . . email, text, whatever and say, “What can I do to help you?” If you’re healthy and young, can you do errands for someone who is older and shouldn’t go out? Can you help raise money for charity? (The Actors Fund is a great one, made for moments just like this.) TheaterMakers are the most passionate and caring folks in the world. So share that love with others.
John F. Kennedy once said, “The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis. ‘ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity.”
There are opportunities over the next several weeks for all of us to here to become better and more caring TheaterMakers and people. Seize them.
Because one day, when this is long gone, and we are a healthy society of plenty and abundance again, people will ask you, “What did you do during the Corona epidemic?”
I want you to have a wonderful story that ends with, “And that’s why I’m where I am today.”
Go get ’em.
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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.