Friday, March 26, 2010

Theater Needs Better Rivalries

The aspect I most love about sports, be they professional or college or Olympic, is the ever present element of good old fashioned competition between rivals. A hotly contested rivalry gives each camp something to shoot for, a bar to meet and surpass, and pushes both sides to compete harder, better and smarter against all other competitors, not just the hated rival.

And for the most part, the competitive spirit between teams is usually pretty good natured as it's in the interest of both parties to keep the rivalry going. For example, the 49ers don't spend hours working diligently into the evening on the total destruction of the Cowboys organization (at least not publicly), because SF knows that when arch rival Dallas comes to town, tickets will move and beers will be sold at a quicker pace than when the Seahawks come visit.

Yes, of course, there are downsides whenever you're dealing with competition. Chloe Veltman has some thoughts on the alternative papers of the Bay Area, the Weekly and Bay Guardian, who apparently do work late into the evening desperately trying to destroy each other. Veltman argues that it's all a bit silly, considering they're both pretty excellent papers, but that the behavior is especially egregious given the gloomy economic prospects of newspapers these days. "If this continues," Veltman writes, "It won't be long before The Bay Area has no alternative papers at all."

And if you think that sounds a bit hyperbolic, just think about some of those crazy gnarly rivalries in politics, hip-hop or international soccer. Shit can get outta hand, for sure.

However, generally speaking, I think a little competition is a good thing. It's the basis for capitalism right? (Note: capitalism may or may not be a good thing, but for now it seems pretty well accepted around the world, so let's call it a solid.)

Look at the 2007 show down between Kanye West and 50 Cent - both agreed to release their latest albums at the same time and subsequently retire from hip-hop if the other sold more copies in the first week. Though generally regarded as a marketing ploy to boost sales, the face off was hyped as some super personal rivalry between two mega-star rappers. According to Forbes, it worked, "Rivalries sell records."

What's ingenious about sports rivalries, is that a) there is theoretically no end to the rivalry, and b) the start of each new season essentially wipes the slate clean as both sides retool, change line-ups, hire some heavy hitters etc, and the rivalry resets itself. Example: every year every Cal Bears fan says the following about their football team, and it basically never comes true: "This year, we're totally going to beat USC and go to the Rose Bowl."

Theater could use some this competition, or any competition for that matter. Throw down challenges, level ultimatums, ratchet up the rhetoric and have some fun while you're doing it. Developing a marketing plan around competition energizes sales in other industries, so why not theater?

So how could good ole fashioned friendly competition play out in the theater community? Well, I can think of one example off the top of my head, but here's a few more:

1) Two theaters should agree to premiere the same play at the same time. They'd each do their own, individual, and unique as a snowflake productions of the show, but they'd build an entire marketing strategy around competing to sell more tickets. The theater that sells more tickets to its version of the show wins, and the competing artistic director has to shave his beard, or the other company has to agree to be pelted with rotten veggies.

2) Impact ran this pretty dope event called Beer Theater, an experiment which asked the very scientific question, "Could medieval actors hold their liquor better than Impact actors?" Great question, and one that desperately needs to be answered right away and frequently. Now toss a little competition into the mix and you've got some uber dank entertainment. Pit two companies against each other who both perform the same scene and decree that whichever group manages to polish off more pitchers of beer over the course of their scene wins. The loser has to immediately sing a drunken karaoke version of Natalie Imbruglia's "Torn".

3) Build a social networking marketing campaign around winning Best Theater Co. in all these Best of the Bay lists that the Chronicle, Weekly and Bay Guardian put out in the Spring. Fans would get more active on Facebook pages or comments sections and eventually start doing their own marketing for their chosen company. The losing company has to put out a YouTube video acknowledging the winner as the Best in the Bay ... or agree to get pelted with rotten veggies.

Point is, all of these strategies would energize fan bases, increase sales, and be generally fun for participants and audience alike. If rivalries can sell records, they should also be able to put butts in seats.

Friday, March 19, 2010

"Happy Birthday To Me"

A short film made by PF homie Mauriccio Baiocchi and starring PF artistic director (read: d-bag in residence) Rob Ready.

Happy Birthday to Me from Mauricio Baiocchi on Vimeo.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Off-Market Gets Nods from Critics Circle and ... Dave Chappelle?

As you well know, Off-Market's a pretty small venue in the grand scheme of things. But we pride ourselves on providing intimate, provocative and fun entertainment at a relatively low cost. So when we suddenly get a bunch of compliments from creative and critical contemporaries alike, we're compelled to brag like idiots about the kudos.

For example, did you know that:

5 plays which ran at Off-Market in 2009 recently received 9 Critics Circle nominations? Plays that ran at Off-Market in '09 were "A Delicate Balance," "Putting it Together," "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change," "Pulp Scripture" and "The Santaland Diaries." Shows were nominated in categories ranging from Best Entire Production, Best Male Performance, Best Original Script, Best Solo Performance, Best Ensemble, Best Female Performance in a Musical, Best Musical Director to Best Ensemble in a Musical. Congrats to Off-Market alum Custom Made and current Off-Market groups Ray of Light, Combined Artform and PianoFight for making live theatre thrive in 2009.

World class kick ass comic Dave Chappelle stopped by Off-Market last weekend to catch City Solo? Here's what he thought of the show: "City Solo at Off Market is like an adventure, it's funny then heartfelt then funny again. I've never seen solo shows done like that before." And if you think we're BS-ing, check out a photo of Dave hanging with buddy and City Solo producer Nicole Maxali in the lobby of 965 Mission below. City Solo runs Sundays at 7:00pm, Ticket/Info:

The only improv show in the country which hooks up two casts in two cities using live, streaming video over the Internet, Tilted Frame Network, returns to Theatre Asylum in Los Angeles and Off-Market in San Francisco? Once again, two casts separated by nearly 350 miles will use audience suggestions and in some cases the audiences themselves to create Tilted Frame Network's new "season" through short-form improv games based on TV, Film and the Internet. Tickets/Info:

Eat, Pray, Laugh! - Alicia Dattner's comic solo show, has been extended for a second time at Off-Market? Dattner's show, the tagline to which is "Jewish princess seeks Indian guru for one life stand," will continue through April on Wednesday nights at 8:00pm for a 15 week run at Off-Market. Tickets/Info:

The last time Ray of Light Theatre performed at Off-Market, the show was nominated for a Critics Circle Award? ROLT is back at OM, this time with the musical "Baby." If history is any indication, it's going to be a great show. Tickets/Info:

ForePlays is on its third all new show in 4 months? Monday Night ForePlays continues to draw killer crowds to its female-driven variety show with award winning comics, jaw dropping musical guests, crazy awesome dance numbers and damn funny sketch comedy. Plus, there'll be an ALL NEW show in April! Tickets/Info:

Spontaneous Combustion is exploding comedy on March 27th? Back for its eleventh show at Off-Market, short and long-form improv comedy troupe Spontaneous Combustion is lighting up audiences with laughs and features musical guest Yael Schy. Tickets/Info:

ShortLived is rumbling into town with Sleepwalkers, Threshold, Crisis Hopkins, Bill Bivins, Daniel Heath and tons more playwrights and theater companies all competing against each other - and you decide the winner? Oh yeah, the largest audience judged playwriting competition in the nation returns to SF with some of the finest talent in the Bay - not to mention, ShortLived is running in LA this year also. Tickets/Info:

Hyper Raje Records is throwing another rock show March 27? Hyper Raje, which bands in and out of their recording studio in the basement of 965 Mission St typically puts together one or two straight-up rocking shows every month. Hi Like 5 plus two more bands - Tickets/Info:

And, as always, you can get more info about everything going on at Off-Market at our bitchin new website and more on resident company PianoFight at

Thanks for reading, and see you at the show!