In the fairly recent past, an active subject of conversation that kept resurfacing was the content of current shows in the commercial sector. Namely, the fact that a majority of new productions on Broadway are based on pre-extant Intellectual Property. Of course many artists aren’t too thrilled about this when there’s so much great ORIGINAL work out there. However, the Box Office benefits of a beloved IP are hard to deny. There’s security in a Brand that comes with a giftwrapped audience. The stronger the IP, the more buzz before you even begin rehearsals. The better early the box office number, the better your growth from local word-of-mouth. Let’s be honest, we know this: success breeds success.

I propose you harness that same Box Office power. I’m not saying it’ll be easy. I’m not saying it’ll be quick. I’m not saying that I’ve done this yet. But right now, it’s what I’m working on with my meager resources, and you don’t need much to get started.

And no, I’m not saying go out and drop a bunch on money on popular IP and create a derivative play. Most of us can’t afford that and aren’t interested even if we could. This is good. This is where we start.

We start with a blank slate.

I’m talking about new work here. Let’s create a world. From Scratch. Let the play be one piece of the world you develop. Let your imagination run wild and take your time. Our goal is to build a world. As you’re developing the characters, the world and the plot. Experiment with small self contained snippets of content. Polish things that work during play development and put the output on a schedule. Start telling the story. You don’t need money. You aren’t mounting a full production. Not yet. You’re creating the small pieces of the puzzle that will become the world your play inhabits. Now share those pieces. Post your short stories on a blog. Create short character sketches in video form. Start sharing them on YouTube. TELL A STORY. Tell it as you create it. Share your passion for the work you’re making. And of course, target that content, get it out to as many people as possible.

Once you’ve got an online audience base and you’re getting close to actual rehearsal and production time, maybe you want to run an ARG (Alternate Reality Game) to get those interested really invested. Get them invested and make them your advocates. Those who are invested in your world will crave deeper immersion, and now your show is the ultimate pay-off to the journey you’ve been taking them on already.

By intelligently, and creatively sharing your process, you’ve now created a good piece of IP. There is now an audience out there who will talk about the opportunity to reach out and touch your world, to share a space with you and your actors. Yeah, maybe your brand recognition’s no Spider-Man, but your piece is no longer just another play. There’s some name recognition. And better yet, this process means you’ve fleshed out a full, immersive world and set your new play up for success. Not only locally, but potentially globally. (You’re getting 1000s of hits from Paris, Texas or Limerick, Ireland? Maybe it’s worth a trip!)

So here’s my proposal. Don’t just write/produce/devise a new play. Build a new world and loose it upon ours. Do it incrementally and make the live performance your premium content. Build a world and invite others in. I don’t have the hard proof yet, but I guarantee it.

Build It, and They WILL Come.

  • September 4, 2010
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