Expanded Performance Category
The Fullest Circle
by Claire Skelcey, Raucous
Rachael: Claire, fancy writing a blog about your project?
Claire: Sure! [freaks out and frantically googles blog ideas]
- How Expanded Performance Can Help You Live a Better Life
- 16 Ways Expanded Performance Could Help Your MLB Team Win the World Series
- Why Expanded Performance is Cuter Than a Kitten
- Why Expanded Performance Should Be One of the 7 Deadly Sins
- Why Do People Think Expanded Performance is a Good Idea?
- How Expanded Performance Can Help You Survive a Filibuster
Claire: Team, I can’t work out what to write a blog about! Help!
Team: Just write about why you do what you do.
Claire: Oh right. Yeah ok.
So here goes...
My name is Claire Skelcey. I've been a marketing manager for theatre, arts and culture for many years now, and the reason I am still here is because essentially, at the base of it, I am a repressed theatre maker and I know that theatre can transform lives…
Rewind to 1991
I got the part of Guildenstern in Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead at Bris School aged 15, driving me to instantly fall in love with theatre, ditch the maths and science and head to the extraordinary walls of Dartington College of Arts to study. There I lived the theatre student life; I walked the beautiful gardens; Diana Theodores made me fall in love with Susan Sontag’s In Memory of Their Feelings; Josie Sutcliffe taught me about women in drama; Yon taught me about movement; I nearly moved to Russia to act; public projects in Plymouth and Dublin taught me about theatre in the real world, and I made best friends for life. But Dartington also taught me another important lesson about theatre: what is the point of making it if no-one will come?
And so grew an even deeper love: mastering the art of persuading people to come and see the theatre that was being made. Because really that’s what marketing is, right? The art of persuasion?
Fast forward to 2012
I’d spent several years cementing my career in theatre marketing at The Rondo Theatre in Bath and Bristol Old Vic, and now was the time to take the plunge and go freelance. I needed a change; I needed a break from the marketing department formula and I wanted to pave the way to doing things my way. Which turned out to be the best decision I ever made.
My first freelance role was Marketing Manager for Mercurial Wrestler’s Magna Mysteria which was taking place as part of Mayfest that year. Now, here was a project that allowed me to throw away the rulebook and do marketing differently; I chose some of the copy directly from Timothy X Atack’s script; the audience was communicated with by characters from the show on Twitter; a campaign was developed online using video and images to create the illusion that a master of trickery, a Magician, was coming to Bristol.
And as luck would have it, as well as selling every ticket we had to sell, the campaign caught the attention of a rather phenomenal woman called Sharon Clark who was in the process of building a team for her new company, Raucous…
Fast forward to 2015
Sharon Clark asks me to join Raucous to market The Stick House and I jump at the chance. An extraordinary six months follows (don’t mention the toilets/the lack of electricity/the rats/the burst appendix/preview number three) and we sell loads of tickets, enough to make 153% of our financial target. It’s my most successful marketing campaign to date…and yet we still haven’t quite hit the mark that we want to hit when it comes to playing with marketing; why is the marketing not as ‘Raucous’ as the show? Raucous makes theatre using digital technology such as augmented reality, projection mapping, sound and smell to enhance the performance for an audience, enriching the story and delivering a deeper experience. Why don’t we deliver this in the marketing, too?
Using AR, we can elongate the story so that it bleeds into the marketing and introduces the audience to the characters and the world of the show long before the show is on. We can start to build anticipation early on by revealing snippets of the story, and use magic, awe and wonder to build excitement around what the show might deliver. Through AR and AI, we can ask the audience to start understanding the part that they might play in the show and develop a relationship with the audience from the get-go. We can also extend the performance beyond the end of the show, enabling a moment of personalised moment-sharing that could not be achieved inside a theatre with a large audience. Why don’t we rewrite the rulebook and sign off theatre marketing using technology as an artform in its own right? By becoming more experiential using AR, theatre marketing will deliver a deeper, richer message to audiences and thereby give them an expanded performance.
Winner, winner, pre-theatre dinner.
Fast forward to February 2020
We apply for funding through the brilliant Bristol+Bath Creative R+D to explore this Expanded Performance project.
Emily: “Claire, we got the funding!!”
Claire: “NO WAY! AMAZING! I finally get to explore what I have wanted to explore for ages!”
Hop to March 2020
Drag yourself through thick, sticky mud to October 2020
Dear Expanded Performance cohort friends,
After many months of being locked down in this pandemic I have finally made an office in my bedroom. It's taken me quite a while to do this because I couldn't quite find the right place that I wanted to work because I couldn't get into ‘the zone’ because this house doesn't mean work to me, it means children and living and Roger and kitchen discos and cooking and building and singing and having baths and reading books. And guess what? I literally can’t do any work at my new desk because the Wi-Fi has a black spot at ONLY that spot in my bedroom! FML!
A metaphor for the last eight months.
What was supposed to happen:
I was supposed to lead a project that I have been desperate to do for many years with my brilliant team by my side at the Pervasive Media Studio, testing the use of AR to make Raucous theatre shows a richer experience for audiences.
What actually happened:
Sorry what? A pandemic? I’ve got to home-school my kids? And work at the same time? And no-one can go out? Sorry, what’s Zoom?
= Confidence in my own ability say BYE BYE!
Out of nowhere the project had to be conducted under the most brutal and strange cloud I could possibly imagine, making it one of the hardest projects I've ever done. The lack of human contact changed everything, and I found I couldn’t do it for a while. Due, in part, to keeping two young kids safe and secure, and being asked for snacks every four minutes.
So I threw myself into the cohort workshops in the hope that that might trigger something. And guess what? It did. What Bristol+Bath Creative R+D managed to do is create an online programme that was just as rich as if we had been able to meet in person. Of course, I can't actually back that up with evidence because we never got to do the workshops IRL, but I feel that the cohort connected in a new way – a way that got us through the beginning of coronavirus and out the other side*.
I come around via The Fullest Circle to today. Today I am finalising the real-life plans for testing the use of AR in marketing for the next Raucous show, in order to give audiences access to the story way before it is on sale. So, keep your eyes peeled for announcements over the next few weeks and months, as we will want your feedback. And we want you to tell us what you really think because it doesn't matter if it fails at the first attempt – we'll try again until we get it right.
With luck we’ll attract new audiences and more people will have their lives transformed by theatre. Happy days.
*The other side is pretty batsh1t too.
Image credit: Jack Offord