Monday, November 29, 2010
Yesterday afternoon, I had the pleasure of hosting a talkback for BackStage Theatre Company. This was a special event we put together. Normally, BackStage does a talkback every Sunday with the artists from the show. As I've alluded to before, these talkbacks are important to building relationships with the audience, and therefore are a critical tool to fundraising. But this one went a little above and beyond.
The current show, Memory by Jonathan Lichtenstein, examines the parallel stories of two families, one from the Holocaust and one from the current Israeli/Palestinian conflict. We decided that bringing in a speaker related to those themes that could join the talkback forum with the artists would be a sensational way to expand our reach and to give an enhanced experience to our current audiences.
At first, we tried to bring in a speaker from outside the city. This was a humbling lesson for me in remembering scale and simplicity. After a couple of weeks of going back and forth, the speaker dropped out with just over a week to go to the scheduled date of the talkback with a couple of groups that were looking forward to the thematic talkback.
Thankfully, the peace movement for the Mideast is exceptionally strong here in Chicago, and we were pointed to Miryam Rashid who swooped in and helped us out just in time for us. She's local and a well-loved and respected speaker with personal stories to tell. That's what made the difference too, those personal stories.
Miryam gave that personal touch to the stories and related so many of the moments in the show to her personal experience, her work, and that of her family. It expanded our mission and the depth of this particular show. It helped us reach out to new audiences and more deeply connected us with existing ones. It gave us a platform to have deeper relationships with our patrons that have the potential to become donor relationships in conjunction with everything else we're doing.
From an artistic perspective and a fundraising perspective, I feel that yesterday was a true success. This is why I continue to advocate so strongly for good talkbacks as a long-term, experience-building fundraising tool.