The EventBuzz Podcast: Streaming Performing Arts and Virtual Theater Events

The EventBuzz Podcast: Streaming Performing Arts and Virtual Theater Events

Podcast speakers: Savannah McIntosh, the Purplepass Marketing Director and Super Summer Theatre Advisory Committee member, Thomas Kovach. Jump to links and video notes below. 

 

The EventBuzz podcast: Super Summer Theatre

presented by Purplepass


Podcast Transcript: 
Purplepass + Super Summer Theatre

 

Savannah (Purplepass):  

Okay, so welcome back for another episode of our podcast series EventBuzz presented by Purplepass. In each episode, we talk to a different industry leader or event planner about current industry trends or events, planning, insights, hacks, and whatever else comes up along the way.

Our guest today is here to talk to us about his organization's first ever 100% virtual celebration to mark their 45th anniversary. We are also going to be talking about how they have been navigating this new world of virtual events, what they've learned so far, and other helpful tips for event planners out there making the same transition to an online event space.

So how are you doing today, Tom, thanks for joining us.

 

Tom (Super Summer Theatre): 

I'm doing really well. Thank you for having me.

 

Savannah:

How about, we start with having you just give us a brief introduction of the organization you're involved with what they do, as well as what your role is with them?

 

Tom:

Sure. So Super Summer Theater has been around for 45 years. It is an organization that provides high quality family friendly, performing arts entertainment, mostly during the summer under the stars out at one of our local state parks. But for the last several years now, we've also provided performances in the offseason at a studio space in the central part of the valley here in Southern Nevada in the Las Vegas Valley.

And over the 45 years, well over 1.2 million people have attended the performances. And many of those attendees were able to experience the performing arts for the first time, especially many children, only because Super Summer Theater exists in so much as the prices to our performances are very affordable. They're kept low for the reason of expanding access to the performing arts, and allows families who might not otherwise be able to afford commercial productions to experience the joys of watching live theatre on a stage.

My role is I serve on the advisory committee for Super Summer Theater. And I've been assisting with fundraising for the organization for about five, six years now.

 

Savannah:

Nice. And I've seen your guys venue, outdoors. It looks amazing. And I mean, I have never been but it makes me want to go because when we were having in person events, it just looks really cool. If the listeners here haven't seen it definitely look up Super Summer Theater and their venue, it just looks like a cool experience. For the performing arts a cool way to experience the performing arts basically. 

 

Tom: 

It absolutely is a stunning, beautiful place. We have a lot of people who visit because they enjoy the scenery. The natural scenery as much as they might enjoy what's being performed on stage. And those listening might think, wow, you're gonna watch an outdoor performance in the middle of the summer in Las Vegas. But the position of the State Park is up against a mountain range. And so the sun goes down earlier out there than it does where most people live in Las Vegas in Las Vegas Valley. So it's much cooler when it's time for the performance than it is in the central part of the city where most people live.

So it's a it's a great way to escape the heat as well.

 

Savannah:

Yeah. And the event that you guys have coming up the Super Summer Theater Live. I just wanted to kind of learn more about it and you could tell us a little bit more on it and how it's going to be different from any other events the organization has done so far.

 

Tom:

Well SST Live is basically a product of the pandemic, because we were planning to have our 45th anniversary season this year. And during the season, out at the ranch, we were going to do a 45th Anniversary Show and gala celebration. Due to the pandemic our entire season was canceled. And with that, so as the 45th Anniversary Show and Celebration. So we've essentially now moved the 45th celebration and season to 2021. And we're going to use SST Live as the kickoff of a year long celebration of the 45th anniversary of Super Summer Theater. 

 

Savannah:

oh, okay I was wondering how you were going to do that. 

 

Tom: 

And so we decided to do this events in October, which is the first month of our fiscal year. So it is really the opening of our of our year. And we have been able to get a number of performers to either join us live at our studios, or who are prerecording performances or statements of support that we will show and on the 22nd.

 

Savannah:

Okay, and that that's what I was going to ask like how, because it said that there, there's a lot of different performances taking place. So I was going to ask everyone's in one location or different performances. So you're kind of doing a hybrid where it's you have your studio, but then you have other people in different areas that are going to be like, broadcasted in?

 

Tom:

That's right. So we here in Nevada have had a 50 person cap on gatherings until the first of October, and that was just announced a few days prior. So in planning for this event, we really were planning under the condition that we couldn't have more than 50 people in one space. And then when you add the requirements for social distancing, we realized we weren't going to be able to have lots of live performances in one place.

So yes, we've been planning a hybrid. And in 10, in one place at our studios, to have the MC of the event, we'll have a welcome by our board chair. We'll have a couple of other live elements taking place there. But a lot of the messaging, the testimonials talking about how important Supercenter theater is community and sharing some remembrances about favorite SST memories, as well as some performances, those are going to be recorded and presented on the 22nd as part of a one hour program.

 

Savannah:

Oh, gotcha. So the messages and stuff are going to be prerecorded.Correct?

 

Tom:

A lot of them are yes.

 

Savannah:

Smart. On that note, I was gonna ask you about the streaming software you guys are are going to be working with because I know a lot of people, we get that question all the time, like, what's the best streaming software, and there's a lot out there?

 

Tom:

Yes, we looked at a lot of different options. And we ended up choosing a Streaming Video Provider, which is I'm sure some of your listeners are familiar with. And then using Blackmagic Design hardware. And so those are the two products where we're essentially using to stream the event.

 

Savannah:

And when you go to stream, it's, you're going to be able to coordinate so where you put in those prerecorded things, the pre recorded bits when you need to, that's what the software, it kind of allows you to do that?

 

Tom:

That's right.

 

Savannah:

Okay. I was just trying to get a better understanding of how that works. And there's so many software out there, you really have to do your research and just figure out what you want and which one has it. So I always try to like ask cuz I know a lot of people out there don't know where to even start. And then also, on that note, do you have any tips for other event planners or groups out there trying to make the switch to a virtual event for the first time?

I know you haven't had your event yet. But I was curious as to leading up to it and even now, has there been any mistakes that were made in the beginning of all this that could have easily been avoided, or time-savers?

 

Tom:

Well, our organization is an all volunteer organization. So we don't have a lot of staff to be able to work on something like this. So our perspective and the approach we're taking might not be the right one for organizations who are listening, because they might have a lot more resources. But due to the fact that we're all volunteer organization, we really decided to try to minimize the opportunities where something might go wrong, or where it would just become more challenging because it was too complicated.

And one of the biggest areas was not having a lot of live performances, all at one time on sight or trying to connect in performances that are live from other sites. We have this beautiful part where we have our stage and pavilion and do our performances and it would be the ideal place to, to have something for this program, but it was just going to be too challenging.

Because we don't have all the resources to ensure that the equipment and the technology, that we could feel confident that the quality would be to the standard that we expect us to deliver. So that to me is, you know, something that we had to consider and make changes and really sacrifice. But not every other organization would have to. And I think that's one of the most important things when considering to do one of these virtual events is really look at what you can accomplish, and not try to do everything.

Not, especially as a nonprofit, not try to compete with what we see some of the commercial productions being done, virtually look like in streaming, you know, we we just have to be realistic. And so that's the approach we've taken. Yeah and the recordings that we've received, and the quality of those now have been quite good. So we're feeling good that the presentation value is going to be appreciated by the audience and what they expect to see from Super Summer Theatre. 

 

Savannah:

Yeah, I'm excited to see it all come together, it's going to be awesome. And I'm sure, it's a learning curve for everyone out there just starting. And we really need to set like achievable goals versus what you said, looking at all these other people that actually have been doing it for a lot longer before the pandemic that know what they're doing. So that's great advice.

And for the theater, do you guys have plans yet for coming back in the future or next year? Or what have you guys kind of been talking about for, actions that you guys would be taking to ensure like health and safety of everyone involved is met when like opening up the theater again?

 

Tom:

So the main summer season, runs from roughly May to September, and that's too far off in the distance to know exactly what we're going to be able to do. But our intention is to have an outdoor season next year. And we're gonna have to wait to see what reality is we get closer to that time. I mentioned earlier that we also have an in sitting studio performance space. And we are approaching the time, October would traditionally be the first month where we have been offering performances in studio.

And so we're looking at what the opportunities to do that because the in person cap on gatherings was increased from 50 to 250. Last week, there is an opportunity, because our in studio theater could accommodate enough people under the 250 cap.

So that it would be fine from that perspective, the social distancing perspective, and there's a parameter right now that this state has issued for live performances that there has to be a certain distance between the stage or the performers and the first row of the audience.

And that's the piece that is more challenging for not only Super Summer Theater, but other Performing Arts venues that you have to keep that distance and a lot of smaller venues like ours, that it makes it challenging. So we're looking at what we might be able to do, we'd love to be able to stage performances again.

Our audiences are no wanting that to happen. There's a great desire to get back to being able to attend performances. But health and safety is our number one priority of everyone involved of our audience members our actors and others working behind and around the stage. So we're not exactly sure what we're going to be able to do yet, but we are looking at it.

 

Savannah:

Okay. And for this new event, my last question, I was just curious, because everyone kind of approaches it differently. Your audience is not used to, obviously doing these virtual events. So I was just curious how you guys, what was the strategy for your marketing, at least letting people know about the event and making sure they're aware that, hey, it's virtual, obviously, I'm sure they already figured it was, it was a virtual event if you're having one right now. But I'm just curious how you're making sure you're getting the word out and you're gonna be preparing your customers for how like logging in and how to do all that because some people aren't as tech savvy as others are, this is a whole new realm for them. So I was just curious.

 

Tom:

So our initial outreach for publicity has been focused on our own digital delivery platforms.

So we use email quite significantly to communicate with our patron base, and social media. So that's been the focus, initially, and now that we're getting closer to the event, we issued a press release last week, and had been very pleased with the media attention.

So we've been featured online from a number of sources, and are looking to potentially do some call in or in studio appearances. As we get closer to the event, there's just so much going on in the news, both locally and nationally. That it is it is a challenge to to cut through that. But we were quite pleased that the press release garnered in the first week, you know, three media opportunities. And for us, being as you know, relatively small as we are compared to the casino operations and everything going on and on the strip. We were very pleased with that attention. And we're hopeful that that continues over the next couple of weeks.

 

Savannah:

Yeah, people probably really miss you guys. That's why, and when the event goes live, isn't just isn't going to be streamed directly off of your website?

 

Tom:

Yes.

 

Savannah:

Okay. That's nice. And people are you just giving people when they order, like, they're, when they confirm their tickets is there like a process kind of that like walks them through it or just like tells them where to go, or?

 

Tom:

What we're informing people is that they're going to receive a link right before the event. So you know, the day before the event, or a couple days before the event, they'll they'll get the link? And that will give them the instructions on what to do. But you're right. Not everyone is as technologically savvy as others. So we are trying to keep it as simple as possible.

 

Savannah:

Yeah. And I think that's it for my questions. Is there anything else you would like to add? Again, I know your event hasn't happened yet. But for other people out there, getting ready or wanting to put their own virtual event, on any other tips you might suggest when going forth in that journey?

 

Tom:

I'd say just go for it. Right? I think there's an interest by our audiences and hearing from us and having the opportunity even if they don't take it to participate. They might have something else planned, they might forget. I mean, this is just an unchartered world we're living in. People are looking for engagement. And I think it's important that as performing arts organizations, we're connecting with our audiences, we're letting them know we're here, we're letting them know, we're here for them, and go forward and do a virtual event and just let it be what it's going to be.

You know, everyone I think is more forgiving right now, when it comes to, you know, if there's a glitch with the technology or something doesn't sound as good as it does or, you know, they know they might lose connection because of their own internet at home. So I think it's this most important to keep the mission in mind keep the importance of providing an opportunity to engage. And as I said earlier, don't try to do too much and make it too complicated.

 

Savannah:

Yeah, and like you said, I mean, your audience is going to be forgiving. I'm sure they would take a glitch or low quality any day over not having anything, because they're constantly looking for some sort of resemblance of an event to kind of like help get us back to something that's normal. So like you said, take a chance, do it. It's not going to hurt and they're definitely going to appreciate it.

And yeah, that was great advice. Thanks for chatting with us today.

 

Tom:

Oh, thanks for having me and appreciate the support

 



Video notes and links

Super Summer Theatre (learn more)

Super Summer Theatre Live

 

Software: 

StreamingVideoProvider

Blackmagic Design hardware

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