Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Wild Ride From Broadway to Beale: The Press Agent, Part 2

Every now and then we give you the inside scoop on how a Broadway show makes its way to Beale Street.  Last time, we began talking about the role of the press agent and the many, many hats that he or she wears when playing the middle man between the producers, the production, and the venue.  Now that the show is booked, the marketing materials are perfected, and the producers are happy, we'll go a step further and explore all the duties the press agent has during the weeks leading up to production and the week of the engagement. 

About 4-6 weeks before the musical arrives in town, the press agent will schedule a press call with the venue.  Let's just use The Orpheum Theatre as an example, shall we?  They'll chat with us about advance press (articles and interviews that will run before the show arrives), in-town press (television, radio and promotional appearances that may occur while the actors are in town), press night (when members of the reviewing press come to see the show), and other incidental events such as cast parties, unique press opportunities, and education workshops that the cast can accommodate.  In our case, the Orpheum brings a press "wish list" to the meeting, and then the press agent will counsel us on which items can be accomplished based on the availability of the cast.

We get all of the information, we break, and we get to work!  Once the Orpheum gets the go-ahead from members of the press regarding print and television interviews, we submit formal requests to the press agents.  The agency usually has a designated form for interview requests that allows them to collect as much information as possible about the interview.  For example, regarding advance interviews, the press agent will need to know which cast member the reporter wants to interview, what publication the reporter represents, when the reporter is available for interviews, and what the angle of the story will be.

Then the press agent will contact the actor or actress and get their availability for an interview.  If the actor is available, the interview is confirmed, and we're good to go.  If not, it's back to the drawing board for everyone until we can successfully connect the actor and the reporter, usually over the phone.  Of course, don't forget that the press agent is juggling multiple engagements: he or she is scheduling cast interviews for cities such as New Orleans, Oklahoma City, and Chicago in addition to Memphis.

When it comes to in-town press, things can get a little complicated.  Some shows will schedule rehearsals while they are in town, especially if the tour is still fresh out of the gate.  In this case, it's the press agent's job not only to make sure that the actors are helping with in-town press so that the community can learn more about the show, but also to ensure that there is a healthy balance between press, rehearsals (if there are any), and the actual performances.  At the end of the day, everyone wants to see a fantastic production, so the press agent works with the Company Manager to keep the actors well-rested on top of everything else. 

After plenty of forms, lots of calls and emails, and possibly a few changes in appointments, the Orpheum will put together an in-town press "run sheet" that details every pick-up time and location, every on-air time, every necessary Orpheum staff contact, and every other special event for the entire week (or weeks, depending on the show).  We pass that along to the press agent for a final review, but since we've been working together so closely for so long, the run sheet is basically a formality that allows everyone to see our collaborations summarized in a single-page document.

After that, the press agent will check in with both the actors and the Orpheum after each day of press just to make sure that things are running smoothly.  He or she will also ask the Orpheum to collect links to local articles, videos, and blogs for their press archives.  Once the Orpheum engagement is complete, the job is done and it's on to the next city.

As you can see, the press agent has an essential job.  We at the Orpheum are forever grateful to all of the press agents that we work with each and every day: thank you for all that you do to help make our Broadway Season so enjoyable for Memphis' theatre fans!

For our next entry of A Wild Ride From Broadway to Beale, we'll tell you all about the Orpheum's role as a presenting venue for Touring Broadway.  Stay tuned!

Friday, August 22, 2014

President's Page: The Orpheum's 20th Annual Art Sale

The Orpheum Theatre is proud to bring Memphis’ greatest artists together for our 20th Annual Art Sale.  Tomorrow, Saturday, August 23rd from 1:00 to 4:00 PM, over 40 local artists will be on stage at the famous Orpheum selling their original artwork directly to attendees.

About 400 pieces of art starting at just $30 will be on display.  But this event is more than a great opportunity to experience incredible art.  You will have a chance to meet and directly negotiate with artists for the best price on your favorite works.  You'll be able to get the story behind the piece and learn more about the artist's aesthetic and point of view. 
Even if you're not sure whether you're in the market for art, the $10 admission fee includes a wine tasting provided by Hidden Crush and heavy hors d'oeuvres from Flight Restaurant and Wine Bar.  Best of all, you'll be supporting local artists as well as the Orpheum Centre for Performing Arts & Education.  75% of each sale will go to the artist with the remaining 25% being donated to the Orpheum Centre.

It all happens tomorrow starting at 1:00 PM.  I encourage you to drop by in support of our Memphis art community and take a peek at the progress we're making on the Centre while you're here.  Check out our ad in the Commercial Appeal for a complete list of artists.  Tickets to the 20th Annual Art Sale are available at the door or online.

Oh yes: we have the air conditioning going full blast.  So if you're looking for a fun way to beat the heat this weekend, the Art Sale is the perfect event!
Pat Halloran
Orpheum President and CEO

Thursday, August 14, 2014

President's Page: Broadway Recommendations for Your Fall Travels

Jessie Mueller as Carole King.  Photo by Joan Marcus.
There are two times a year when theatre lovers begin to think about heading to New York to check out what’s happening on Broadway.

The first is the summer time when most people are using their sacred vacation days.  The second is during the fall and winter when NYC is bustling with decorations, holiday shoppers, and family togetherness. 

Since fall is closing in, I would like to give some shows to consider for those planning an upcoming trip.  This time, I'll recommend shows that you won't see on the Orpheum’s schedule this year, since of course you'll be visiting the Orpheum to see the musicals on our season schedule!

First, I'd definitely encourage you to see Beautiful: The Carole King Story.  I wrote about this show several times leading up to this year's Tony Awards, but even after all this time, I still cannot forget the incredible Tony winning performance by Jessie Mueller as Carole.  She is unbelievable in this role, and you will want to make sure to catch her on Broadway while you can. 

The other musical that deserves consideration is A Gentlemen’s Guide to Love and Murder.  You might recall that this title won the Tony Award for Best Musical this year, and it deserved it.  The show is an original in every regard: the concept, the story line, the music and the humor all tied together making, it one of those shows that when the curtain falls you find yourself thinking, "It went so fast!  Has it really been an entire 2 and ½ hours?"  So for those who are looking for something completely different, this is the show you need to see.

Official Poster Art for The Elephant Man
Additionally, there are two new shows opening soon that are on the top of my list.  The first is a revival of the classic play The Elephant Man, starring the famous Bradley Cooper who I'm sure needs no introduction.  It doesn’t officially open until December 7th for a limited 14-week engagement, but it will be in previews beginning November 7th.

The second is The Last Ship which opens on October 26th.  The musical's entire score was composed by Sting.  It is always fascinating to me that so many rock stars want to bridge over to Broadway.  Some are very successful, like Cyndi Lauper who won the Tony for Kinky Boots or David Bryan of Bon Jovi who is dear to Memphis' heart for his Tony Award winning music for Memphis the Musical.  Others, like Bono and the infamous Spiderman fiasco, did not fare as well.  It will be interesting to see how Sting compares to his rocker-turned-composer peers.  
To those of you who will be visiting New York in the coming months, I hope you enjoy Broadway - I know I will!
Pat Halloran
President and CEO

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Beyond the Stage: Masterpiece Theatre

Tonight at 6:00PM the Orpheum Theatre kicks off its inaugural Backstage Bash!  This event includes local eats, live music, and a chance to experience the "star's view" of the Orpheum theatre through exclusive backstage access.  In many theatres backstage might not seem very exciting.  If you've seen one you've seen 'em all, right?  Not quite.  The Orpheum has a little secret that our Backstage Bash-ers are going to see it first-hand: our backstage murals.

Our halls are absolutely covered in original artwork.  These masterpieces are painted and autographed by all of the Touring Broadway casts that make a stop in Memphis, Tennessee.  These murals date back to the mid-1990s, but the tradition itself dates way, way, way back... to the 80s.

After the Orpheum was renovated in 1983, the theatre became home to the local opera in addition to touring productions.  Members of the Orpheum's crew allowed starring sopranos to autograph the walls, which was eventually (and lovingly) termed the "diva door."  Many other notable stars, like Cary Grant, followed suit, and soon the tradition grew into a wonderful and colorful array of murals.

Then in 1996, the Orpheum underwent a massive renovation and stage expansion in order to accommodate blockbuster Broadway shows like The Phantom of the Opera and Miss Saigon.  Of course architects had to demolish the walls in order to add depth to the stage, putting the murals in jeopardy.  Every process imaginable was considered in hopes of maintaining the priceless collection of paintings and autographs, but in the end the combination of concrete blocks and mortar made for a weak canvas.  Tragically, there was no way to keep the murals together, and they were lost.

But as we say in theatre, "The show must go on."  And on it did!  For nearly 20 years we have carried on the tradition of allowing each and every cast to leave their mark on our walls.  Our collection has since surpassed the one we were unable to save.  In fact, the halls are so full that our technical director is having to get creative with space, letting casts paint on the stage doors and in the stairwells.

So if you get the chance, stop by the Backstage Bash this evening and see our incredible collection of Broadway masterpieces along with great food, great music, and great company.  Tickets are still available here, or you can buy at the door.  See you backstage!