I love theatre. The story telling, the magic of being transported to another time and place, the power of a shared experience. Live performance offers us an opportunity to create a community based on common values and cherished themes.
But I am worried about the continued existence of theatre. The latest NEA Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA) reports that the decline in musical play attendance marks the first statistically significant change since 1985. In addition, there has been a 12% decline in non-musical play attendance from 2008 to 2102.
What can performing arts organizations do differently to address today’s issues? Are there ways to use technology to help theatre companies operate more efficiently and with a better sense of connectedness to their audiences?
The answer is a resounding Yes.
Ask Questions of Your Data.
This blog will explore how technology can support companies to help them utilize the treasure trove of data that is now lying inert on file drives and in email archives. There are many valuable insights hiding in theatre data collections. But first, the professionals who work in the business need to consider what questions they should be asking of their data. They should also consider how the application of a little rigor and disciplined practice can move them light years ahead and save tons of money better spent on their next production.
How could that happen, you ask. Consider this story.
The Rewards of Better Information Management.
Let's say a theatre employs three staff members in the Development Department. Recent studies have documented that on average, employees spend 30% of their time looking for information they need to complete a task at hand. If they cannot find the desired information, they recreate it. Employees spend another 20% of their time doing this. In round numbers, if an organization is paying its three staff members $50K each a year, they are wasting $75K a year on unproductive employee activity.
If your theatre could have an extra $75K a year, don’t you think it’s worth an effort to consider better strategies for information organization? Arts management is a business as well as a creative pursuit. Just like any other business domain, theatres that adapt and use technical innovations will survive. The rest will not.
Future blog posts will explore common information issues by theatre department and some practical solutions. I hope you will follow these short articles to help you rethink your practices and what you can do to improve your current situation. One thing is overwhelmingly apparent in my research: theatre people are excellent creative problem solvers!
Jayne Dutra is an enterprise information architect and a stage lighting/projection designer. Her IT consulting practice supports performing arts companies to better organize their materials so that they can focus precious resources on the creative process instead of drowning in information overload.