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!

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