When you think about what it’s like to go to live theatre, what thoughts come to your mind? Do you read up beforehand on the show you are going to see? Do you like to talk about the plot with your friends at intermission? Do you look up the playwright online after the show? Live theatre often offers patrons a variety of ways to engage more deeply with the work, but not everyone is interested in engaging in one of the mainstays of the live-theatre experience: the after-show talkback.
In a normal talkback, actors come out after the show, pull up chairs, and talk about the play with the audience members who have decided to stay. While this often leads to interesting conversations and is a worthwhile method of engagement, City Lights Theater Company was interested in exploring the concept of the talkback from different angles.
With funding from Silicon Valley Creates’ Creative Impact Fund, City Lights worked with strategic advisor Ron Evans and his consultancy Group of Minds to design three experiments around the concept of the traditional talkback, and measure results in audience participation and feedback.
City Lights Marketing Director Rebecca Wallace led an interview with playwright Lauren Gunderson, who appeared via Skype from her home in San Francisco.
Our objective in creating these experiments was twofold: to remove barriers to participation in a traditional talkback, and to use technology in new and interesting ways.
As a practical example, our research has shown that some patrons would like to stay in the venue for a talkback, but are unable to for reasons such as limited parking, children and family waiting at home, or work obligations. A traditional talkback format does not allow for flexibility in attendance, but what if patrons could attend from anywhere, virtually?
It was also our hope that “virtual talkbacks” might interest younger, more technology-based patrons, a group being courted by just about every arts group in the nation.
Group of Minds facilitated the design and analysis of each of the three experiments. In collaboration with City Lights Theater Company, the results have identified that additional research would be of benefit to better understand how patrons respond to these efforts on a larger scale. We share our results with the sector so that other theater organizations can learn from our experiments. Special thanks to the the Silicon Valley Creates’ Creative Impact Fund.