American Theatre has a great report on NAMT member La Jolla Playhouse’s new audience engagement program, initiated in 2015 with a Building Audiences for Sustainability grant from the Wallace Foundation. Since receiving the grant, the Playhouse has used their resources to create and sustain programs that will allow them “to build an audience that is more reflective of San Diego.” Through interviews with staff and board members, increased patron participation and commissioning new works, the Playhouse has been hard at work on making this immersive community engagement effort one that will have a direct and lasting impact on the theatre’s work.

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Two years ago, as part of our strategic plan goal to engage with more individuals at our NAMT member theatres, we launched a new program of Management Roundtables with a forum in Miami on board development and best practices. Following the model of our successful Writers’ Roundtables and New Works Summits, this program (as the name implies) was designed to focus on topics on the business side of theatre (which may or may not overlap with new work development and production). These smaller events, hosted by our member theatres, would allow us to explore areas that we weren’t able to support a full two-day conference on, but that warranted more discussion — and more face-time — than an online presentation.

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Members in the News

Theatre by the Book in Big D

Member theatre Dallas Theater Center has been exploring new ways to connect their audiences to the materials presented on their stage. One of their most innovative programs is a community book club that meets to discuss books, chosen by DTC staff, that relate to each show in the DTC season. American Theatre digs into this community engagement program, talking with staff at DTC about the successes and the challenges that this program has faced.

The book club fosters strong connections—among plays and club members, their community, and the thea­tremakers. Though theatre appreciation in an academic sense isn’t a goal of the project, the direct interaction with theatre personnel leads to more personal investment. “I’m always surprised by how much some audience members want to see how the sausage is made,” [Travis] Ballenger [DTC’s artistic associate] commented. “They formed a deep connection with the shows after those conversations and would often see the production multiple times. It was those conversations that led us to create New Play University,” a separate program, in its initial year, in which participants read drafts of, and meet with the artists behind, new plays in development in Dallas.

Read more about this program on American Theatre’s website.

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