HOW DO YOU SELL A PIECE OF NEW MUSICAL THEATRE?
I ask this question because there's at least a couple of new musicals coming out over the next month, in particular The Superhero by Richy Hughes, Joseph Finlay and Michael Conley and one of my own These Trees Are Made of Blood by Amy Draper, Paul Jenkins and myself.
So how do you sell it? Well, shit. I don’t know. I just put that title up so people would read the blog... interestingly there are some parallels with that and selling new musical theatre... an element of trickery and deception perhaps?
How do you get people excited about something they’ve never seen before? How do you convince people to spend their own money, money that they’ve earned and could very easily spend on wine (which virtually guarantees a good time) on a new show, made by people they’ve never heard of about something they have displayed zero interest in.
I thought maybe one way I could get an audience is by writing a blog about why you should come to my latest show, but hopefully there will be something useful in there for other people trying to put a show on.
As mentioned previously my latest show is called These Trees Are Made of Blood.
This is a new piece of musical theatre. It takes a long time, a lot of people and a good proportion of money to put together work of this scale. I’m relatively new to the professional musical theatre having only been paid for my work for the last five years. But I think that the musical theatre community in London and the UK is growing, largely thanks to organisations like Mercury Musical Developments and Book, Music, Lyrics which offer opportunities for networking and professional development as well as a vital support network of friends in the industry. But work requires more than the support of those who are trying to put work on the stage. It requires an audience of people who want to see the work for the work’s sake.
So how do you get them through the door when you don’t have a million pound advertising budget. To quote Tennessee Williams “I have always relied on the kindness of strangers.” During it’s initial run at Southwark Playhouse two years ago, the show eventually sold out it’s last week based purely on word of mouth. It wasn’t selling well initially… because at first glance it probably isn’t something that you would like to go to see.
What this new piece of musical theatre is actually about is the true story of the Mothers of the Plaza de Majo, a group of women whose sons and daughters were tortured, murdered or “disappeared” during the Argentinian Dirty War of 1976-83. Sound like fun?
The show follows one mother’s journey from housewife to activist revolutionary over a period of thirty years. For years, the Madres fought against the fascist dictatorship that terrorised Argentina in peaceful protest, demanding the return of their children. These women were beaten, charged by armed police on horses, threatened, imprisoned and some of their number were murdered and disappeared themselves. Their public protest was an incredibly brave act of dissent in a country too terrified to speak out.
Despite this, the popular uprising that these women began eventually led to the downfall of one of the most notorious dictatorships in South American history. By the end of the Dirty War an estimated 30,000 civilians had been tortured, murdered and disappeared by the government. It then took nearly forty years for the democratic government of Argentina to bring those responsible to justice. Many of those involved still wander free on the streets of Buenos Aires today, rubbing shoulders with the parents of those they murdered.
Some of the leaders of the Dictatorship, in particular General Videla and Admiral Masseras were eventually sentenced (following numerous pardons) for crimes against humanity. Videla in particular was unrepentant, claiming that he did what was necessary to save the country. He died in prison.
The whereabouts of the majority of the disappeared remains unknown. Many were drugged and thrown from planes into the River Plata where they drowned.
And then the producer asks: “But who is your audience? Why should Joe Bloggs come and see it?”
Well, it’s a good question. And one that I will attempt to answer as best I can…
WHY SHOULD YOU COME AND SEE THE SHOW?
We are living in political times. Donald Trump is attempting to run an autocracy in the U.S.A, the UK’s government hangs in the balance, with a potential alliance from the far right DUP currently on the cards and Brexit looms over the E.U. We are now seeing the workings of government being scrutinised by the public in a way in which we have never seen before.
In the 1976 the Argentinean armed forces overthrew the government of Isabel Peron. No vote was taken, no mandate was given. If anything, the current state of politics means that we should not take for granted the rights that we currently enjoy. They can easily slip from our grasp. Stories like that of the Mothers of the Plaza de Majo remind us that every one of us is responsible for our political life and that politics affects all of us even if we think it doesn’t.
…and then the producer asks: “But who is your audience?”
I know all sorts of people will berate me for my answer and it's probably one of the reasons I'll never work in advertising, but it’s really the only answer I can give.
This show is for you.
Here is the link to buy tickets for the show, please come along and support new writing and important stories...