by Marco Paulo Carneiro
How well are we doing at knowing our patrons? Many of them were with us the week before, and they’re back to see our show a second or third time, this time with friends. Are we doing enough to remember them, and truly say thank you for their support? Are we recognizing their continued contributions and applause, their commitment to our work through the good and bad times? Some of them are what allow us to exist (especially for we Fringe-ers).
There is so much (necessary) talk about what we can do to create an interactive experience for our audience. But how far can this go if the audience doesn’t feel they could comfortably fit in with us at a mixer, post-show talk or even in a piece of interactive theater? We should know our regulars. Remember their faces, remember their “orders,” try to remember their name and make sure they know who you are. Find out what their needs are, what would make for a better patron experience. Invite their thoughts in person. Online forums and discussion boards are invaluable, but I guarantee they will feel like they are literally part of our team if you take some time –make some time- to get their views right there in the theater. And feeling like a team member leads to dedicated patrons who are just as excited for the next production as you are. They might not be the hotshot reviewer you want to impress, but their insight and opinions -especially when they start contrasting past, current and future plans for repertoire, facilities, etc- are incredible ways of knowing if what we’re doing is clear and consistent with our mission and vision; their opinion is a way of knowing if we’re having an affect at all. They wield incredible sway power within their own communities and can help make or break the public success of our work, even if the success isn’t what we’re after. They help keep us grounded so that we don’t overlook the basics. And all of that makes for the beginnings of a great foundation for dialogue-driven community.
In the end, knowing our patrons is all about the community we’re all building together with each passing day of readings, productions, exhibitions and conversations. Knowing them gives us feedback, provides us with loyal support, and allows us to keep growing in our Boston community. The more we know our patrons, the more they’ll want to know us. So please, take some time to remember who gets the extra-toasted bagel. It could be the best thing you’ll ever do to help keep the homegrown movement alive.