Thursday, May 28, 2009

Play in a Day 4 and Press in Milwaukee

Seeing as how most of the media outlets in Milwaukee (excepting Third Coast Digest) completely ignored our press releases for Play in a Day 4 (motherfuckers) I need to post this here:


Play in a Day 4
Saturday 8pm Tenth Street Theatre (10th and Wisconsin, under the big red church) $10

The Onion, The Journal, and The Shepherd don't think it's worth you knowing about enough to EVEN LIST IT in their events listing (but the onion has space to do joke write ups about other shows). I kind of think that creating a full length play, with script, sets, cues, etc in only 24 hours is an acheivement worth staying up all nigth for and I hope you'll think it's worth seeing.

I don't mean to sound bitter, but COME FUCKING ON! What the fuck kind of impossible feat or giant spectacle do artists in Milwaukee have to attempt in order to get any goddamn attention from the fucking press in this town? This is just one example that's got me pissed off at the moment, and yeah, Play in a Day is surely not the most serious or artisanal theatre show in Milwaukee, but it's symptomatic of a major problem. Mary Louise at the Journal is serious about promoting local visual art, but there's not even a blog anywhere (let alone at the big paper) that covers performing arts anything like that (Damien Jaques' blog of 80% Broadway Headlines doesn't even come close). There are tons of theatre's in this town, why such shitty coverage?


Anonymous said...

as far as getting them to give you actual press, good luck with that. (who knows what they're looking for...) but as far as getting on the event calendars, there is a separate submission process, beyond sending in a press release. there's a deadline involved, so you need a little advanced planning, but they'll list almost anything. you just have to do it "their way."

Ben Turk (formerly known as Rex Winsome) said...

Yeah, if you fill in a dozen forms on a dozen different websites you're garaunteed to get the bare details listed in the papers. Sorry, but that's not a good use of any artist's time.

Emailing a press release is supposed to (and generally does) get to the press, might even get in "weekend pics" or something, if the editor considers what you're emailing about worth running.

If the papers don't think what we're doing is worth running (or even listing) that's their perogative, but it's frustrating to see the things they DO give ink to. Frustrating to the point of making me wonder why anyone would try and do anything in this town anymore.

If the press is more interested in either making fun of shitty mainstream culture (the onion) or drooling over news from New York (Jaques') then how are people supposed to find out about and thus support and enrich locally produced culture?

In this environment, local performing artists have to spend as much time promoting themselves as they spend producing art. That's no recipe for growth, innovation or any kind of future for the theatre community in Milwaukee.

Of course, there's always a flipside of this coin. I've tried (through this blog, and writing reviews for Vital Source) to fill this void in the media's coverage of the local theatre scene. This included writing honest reviews of the shows i saw, including ones that i didn't like, and the theatre community FRUCK OUT about it. And when Vital was threatened with losing ad revenue because they ran a critical review I wrote it wasn't the first time.

So, the answer to my last question yesterday: "There are tons of theatres in this town, why such shitty coverage?" is at least partially: "some of those theatres are run by thin skinned babies who can't handle criticism". I guess the Milwaukee theatre community gets what it deserves.

And i also guess that i'm mainly talking to myself again, aren't i? Hurns.

Deborah said...

Its true that without a vital press your are blowing your farts in the wind without a forum for critical analysis or a context for your artistic view point vis-a-vis an artistic presentation. But we're smart people....there's gotta to be a way to figure this out....I'm sure there are hungry people out to find them?

ChrisM said...

Good points, I feel the pain. I've definitely had my own problems with the press. Here is my (admittedly, possibly terrible) advice:

Word of mouth will always exist. But as much as humanly possible (and as counter-intuitive as it sounds), don't let it be your own mouth doing the talking. This will probably just be good for you (health, inspiration, etc), not so much for getting actual press. As much as it sucks, the ultimate verdict is not up to us as the creators. Just keep working, and working hard. WARNING: this could take 100 years to work. So eat healthy and exercise, I guess.

Also, I understand its a bit different for theater work. Having a show of paintings when no one shows up is one thing (feels ridiculous). But I'm guessing that staging theater when no one shows up feels worse (ludicrous ... one speed past ridiculous).

Good luck! Sorry this advice is so impractical ...

ChrisM said...

Sorry, Ben - that was useless advice. That only might be of use to artists who leave behind a trail of inanimate objects.

Since you do theater, you don't have the luxury of pretending imaginary people in the future might enjoy what you're doing to make yourself feel better. So please disregard everything but the "Good Luck" part.

Ben Turk (formerly known as Rex Winsome) said...

Deborah, my guess of how to find hungry people out there has been to shout as loud as possible and hope they hear me. This has had some success, the best people i've worked with are the ones hungry for criticism and honest lively exchanges.

ChrisM, your advice is definitely valuable, word of mouth is certainly better than any press. This makes me think i spend too much time working on creating things and not enough time socializing, building a network of aquaintences. Unfortunately, socializing in this town too often means getting stupid drunk, which I just don't do.

For those who care, the show was great, but also the most poorly attended Play in a Day ever. I haven't totaled up the money, but i think we probably lost between $300 and $500 doing this show. Acceptable losses, considering the intense and wonderful experience of working with so many awesome people on such an exciting project, but also totally unsustainable.

Brian Jacobson said...

Stay with us, Ben. While right now I'm at best capable of posting events in a weekly preview format for the performing arts, I do have a small staff of writers that write reviews and feature materials. But I need more qualified writers that can write critical essays, and there is so much out there that we only catch a fraction. The online magazine here is ramping up business, notice, and reputation so it will get better.

A caveat: I have written some drubbings in my various reviews so far and wonder if the company/venue will ever talk to me again. We'll see.

Brian Jacobson,
Performance Arts Editor
ThirdCoast Digest