I can’t believe we have finished the Spring Summer 15, and second ever Plugged In season. To put it all down on paper and see all the shows next to one another, feels a little bit like having climbed a very large mountain and only noticing the view when you get to the top of it! Boy, has it been a long and busy and amazing six months!
The season officially started way back on February 16th, with the incredibly LIGHT by Theatre Ad Infinitum at King Georges Hall. This honestly feels like a lifetime ago. Plugged In itself is only a year old, so taking on such a big show at the very start of our second season felt terrifying at the time. Of course we had SLYNCS to help, and the wonderful Howard at King Georges Hall took all the technical complexities in his stride – turning the huge main hall into an intimate feeling black box space, and setting up a make shift tech box on the balcony!
Perhaps one of the reasons this season has felt so vast, is because of the sheer variety of shows we’ve hosted.
Building on the work we did in our first season, we’ve seen some great Children’s work this Spring. Once again we saw classic tales pull in a crowd, but we introduced audiences in Nelson to puppetry through Hansel & Gretel, and saw audiences used to pantomimes move on to theatre with Tutti Frutti’s production of Rapunzel in Blackburn. We’ve also had children’s poetry with the returning, energetic Dommy B, and we ended with a lesson in the importance of looking after our environment with Gorilla Gardening. These newer names were always going to be harder to encourage audiences to, but we’re getting there!
We’ve seen something similar happen with the grown up theatre too! Our first show at The Muni in Colne, was a full house, with An Inspector Calls, which in itself is a win, but personally it feels like more of an accomplishment to be encouraging new audiences to new writing. Here at Plugged In HQ we are working on building a path from these classic drama pieces to riskier newer work. For me, as a theatre graduate, I have to remind myself, that theatre for a lot of people is intimidating, that is why so many people ask us for work from the classical drama canon, or a northern comedy. It’s not because they don’t WANT new work, they just don’t know where to begin. I’m very excited for next season, as I feel a lot of the work we have coming and the groups we are working with, really explores that middle ground.
On a personal level, two of the shows I enjoyed most this season were Morgan & West and Circus Geeks. Like people who are new to theatre, these shows were completely new to me. 6 months ago I would never have actively searched for a magic or circus show to go to, but these shows have definitely made me more likely to do just that. It also just goes to show, no audience member has discovered everything yet!
And obviously we had Back of the Bus, which was a HUGE project to take on. I won’t ramble on about that too much here, but if you want to you can read about how the week went in my other post here.
At the heart of the Plugged In project is the community groups we work with and the work we do out and about in the local area!
Our community groups have been as varied as our shows, and I love that our season reflected that!
It was lovely to be able to work with East Lancashire Hospice on their shows at Darwen Library Theatre and taking in the director of The Shape of Things to Come to meet with them. Watching Nelson in Bloom host a sold out show at The ACE Centre is also a highlight, especially seeing every brownie and scout leaving with their own top hat full of daffodils!
Matt and myself also completed our first schools project. Working with 4 primary schools in Blackburn and 6 classes of Year 5 students, reminded me of how important it is to teach children just how many options for creativity there are, and really encourage them to get involved with the arts. Not just because they are brilliant at drawing or because they love acting, but because it will help them be more confident in class, teach them important life skills and help them understand other people.
We’ve also had a lot of fun this season with marketing stunts and workshops. Fireman Dave made peoples day in Darwen with his daft jokes and juggling tricks. We all ate faaaar too many Gingerbread men when we had the puppets from Horse & Bamboo in Nelson and Colne Libraries, and while it was freezing, organising a pop up box office in Blackburn was definitely an interesting experience!
We’ve also been as creative with our marketing for our grown up shows as we have been with our children’s ones (why should the little’uns have all the fun?), challenging people to solve a murder mystery in under two minutes, or brightening their day a little bit with a museum of happiness and free biscuits.
We’ve tried and tested so many things this season, some worked and some didn’t but one thing we have learn’t is that while there is no one magic formula for attracting an audience, the more you get out there and talk to people you want to see in your audience, the more likely you are to find them sitting in the auditorium.
The work we do at Plugged In couldn’t be done without our wonderful venues. King Georges Hall, The ACE Centre, The Muni and Darwen Library Theatre, let us experiment with seating, take over their foyers, and really open up the theatre to new audiences so we’d just like to say a big thank you to everyone we work with.
Our community groups, as I’ve already mentioned, are at the heart of Plugged In, and it might sound cheesey but we really couldn’t do it without them. Working with people in the community isn’t only helping us fill seats in our theatres, but is teaching us so much about, marketing, what people want, and how we can make our venues better.
Of course, we should also thank every company we’ve worked with this season. We’ve challenged them with new set ups and unusual spaces. They’ve joined us on visits to schools, met with our audiences, and answered our odd marketing requests. All on top of delivering incredible shows.
AND FINALLY, I want to thank our audiences, not just for coming along and buying a ticket, but for sticking around afterwards, having a chat and filling in a feedback form. For liking us on facebook, or following us on twitter, and for telling your friends about the shows you’ve seen, and I hope we see you again next season!
ps. Have you seen the shows for next season are already up on the Plugged In website and tickets will be available soon!