ShowBizRadio

Theatre Information

Cue Curtain. Go!

By • Jun 20th, 2014 • Category: ShowBizRadio

Over the past nine years, after attending and reviewing over 700 productions, working backstage and onstage on nearly a dozen shows, interviewing 135 different theater practitioners, writing 400 news articles, publishing nearly 800 reviews from our other reviewers, supporting the Cappies high school theater program by publishing over 450 reviews, providing links to 2,100 auditions and adding 6,000 productions to our production performance calendars, it’s time to close the curtain on ShowBizRadio’s publishing efforts.

Since moving out of the DC area last Fall, it’s been difficult staying connected. Theater is about the people, and learning about productions via email and Facebook doesn’t provide an adequate bond between us as editors and the theaters. As we learned with our efforts to start a ShowBizRadio site in other regions of the country, the editor needs to be involved in local theater activities.

The best thing about the experiences of the past nine years is the people we’ve met. At the very first show we attended (2nd Flight’s Jesus Christ Superstar in Manassas), sitting in the audience before the curtain, as we eavesdropped on the people around us and hearing them discuss the roles they were going to audition for, and the gossip about other actors, we never really thought we would become a part of that community. Everyone we’ve met over the past nine years has been incredibly friendly and supportive.

We’ve made a few mistakes over the years. Sometimes we revealed surprise plot points in a review. Once we gave a snap opinion to a director immediately after the show. We allowed people to post hurtful comments on a review. We occasionally allowed ourselves to be hurt by anonymous insults. We are very grateful to those of you out there who have accepted our apologies for our mistakes and have continued to support us.

One thing we have never apologized for is taking our role of reviewer (and later our role as editor) seriously. We strive to share with our readers both the successes and flaws of a production. We realize that art is very subjective, and it is likely that your reaction to a piece will be different than ours. And that’s ok, we never imagined that anyone would think that our reviews would be the final word. Despite the flaws inherent in the theater awards systems (notably WATCH and Helen Hayes) it was gratifying when those systems agreed with our reviews, either by recognizing an outstanding aspect of a show, or by not recognizing a portion.

What are we proud of?

We’ve always attempted to respect our readers. We include the entire cast and crew lists with each review so that the entire production team gets a bit of credit. We don’t allow pseudonyms on our writers and commenters, we believe that the strongest opinions are those that can be attributed to a specific person. Our web sites don’t do any annoying advertising, such as pop-ups, pop-unders, animated ads, and have limited the number of ads to two banners, despite occasional requests for more ads so the rates could be less expensive. We don’t break articles into multiple pages in order to inflate our page hit counts.

We broadcast the WATCH nominations live, using audio in 2011 and video in 2012 and 2013. We interviewed audience members before and after each broadcast, and broadcast video before the ceremony and during intermission at the 2012 and 2013 WATCH ceremonies. We also live tweeted and liveblogged the WATCH Awards and Helen Hayes Awards several times, starting in 2011.

We have been a supporter of the Cappies since 2007, publishing over 450 reviews. By supporting local high school theater, we’ve been a part of building the love of theater in the next generation of actors, designers and technicians. Many of the high school productions we’ve attended have been excellent, despite huge casts, inexperienced staff, tiny budgets and challenging technical aspects. Please continue to support high school theater by attending your local school’s productions.

We share the site’s revenues with our reviewers. Granted, it wasn’t a lot of money. But it helped offset their travel expenses.

According to our site’s traffic analysis, over 500,000 people have read the site, viewing over 2,000,000 pages.

We also screen people who express interest reviewing. About one in three people don’t continue writing for the site after the screening process. The process involved a phone interview, looking over their theatrical resume and a writing sample, and then reviewing a production attended with Mike and Laura. We then can offer guidance on the review, as well as make sure that whatever they state in the review is justifiable. We also require our reviewers to fully disclose any potential biases they have with a production. If they’ve worked at a theater in the past year, or have a family member or close friend in the show, they are generally unable to review that production.

Our index of theater companies and productions is an never-ending project. This index attempted to list every show produced in the area by every company. We have over 5,000 pages of information cross-referenced on our sites. This takes a huge amount of time to get up and running, but we received comments from artistic directors who used the listings to help plan their future seasons.

We tried to build out a network of sites under the ShowBizRadio brand. We did this in several ways as an experiment to see if our current workflow was scalable. And we learned that the way we were operating really wasn’t. We started three new sites in different regions of the United States. One site simply wasn’t large enough to get any economies of scale despite covering an entire state. One site didn’t get enough traction from the existing theater community to be successful, and the last attempt was a partnership with an existing theater site. That partnership failed, despite a lot of work we did, due to internal problems at that other site. At least we tried!

We joined the American Theatre Critics Association. Being a tiny part of the Tony Award process for recommending the Regional Theatre Award was exciting. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much else to our membership, as we weren’t able to afford to travel around the country to attend conferences, and ATCA doesn’t do much online.

What could we have done better?

We should have obtained more help in managing the deluge of information coming in to us. We receive nearly 50 email messages per day (30,504 messages since starting to count on September 1, 2012). We also get many Facebook messages and event invitations, most of which are hidden by Facebook’s horrible messaging system. In the past year we’ve begun receiving press releases from theaters around the country.

We could have used social media better. While we are active on sites like Facebook and Twitter, they are for the most part time sinks, and a money pit. So we made the decision to use them primarily to link to our own articles. We very briefly explored using YouTube and Pinterest, but again, we chose to not use those sites.

We should have varied our monetizing efforts. The only real success we had was selling advertising space on the site. Exploring different ways to generate income earlier in the site’s life would have been fruitful. Last year’s effort at the ShowBizRadio Club brought in some extra revenue, but not enough to help sustain the sites.

Thank You

The ShowBizRadio web site archives will not be going away. Due to existing scheduling, there will be a few reviews coming out over the next month or so, but we will not be making new press reservations. Our performance and audition calendars will rapidly become outdated, but the time commitment to make changes and corrections is too great to continue.

Thank you to the people who have contributed reviews and articles to the site over the years. Mark Lee Adams, Joe Adcock, Bob Ashby, Genie Baskir, Amy Berlin, Barbara Trainin Blank, Nick Dauley, Mari Davis, Betsy Marks Delaney, McCall Doyle, Courtney Ferguson, Jennifer Gusso, Roman Gusso, Michelle James, Eric Jones, Jacob Kresloff, Bruce Levy, Amanda Lipon, Sara McMullin, Lisa Kay Morton, Rachael Murray, Jose Pineda, Rodrigo Pool, Kari Kitts Rothstein, David Siegel, Daniel Sherrier, Adam Sylvain, Ty Unglebower, Xandra Weaver. ShowBizRadio was better with your efforts.

As always, feel free to send us an email.

Thank you for allowing us to be a small part of the big world of theater. – Mike & Laura

This article can be linked to as: http://showbizradio.com/go/10154.

started ShowBizRadio in August 2005 because they love live theater. They each have both performed in and worked behind the scenes in DC area productions, as well as earned a Career Studies Certificate in Theater from Northern Virginia Community College. Mike & Laura are each members of the American Theatre Critics Association, and Mike is a member of the Online News Association.

17 Responses »

  1. This is, without a doubt, the most distressing and saddest news I’ve had since I returned to the community theatre three years ago!
    IMHO Showbiz Radio has been the single most positive and productive aspect of community theatre, and a powerful source of support for all of us.
    I am devastated, not only because of losing a source for publicity of our efforts, but for the huge value of Showbiz Radio to us all.
    its loss will leave a gigantic void in community theatre life in the DC area.
    You have performed such a great service – there are just no words to do you justice.
    Thank you zillions of times, and blessings to you hereafter.
    Now I shall weep unashamedly!
    Franklin Akers TPB/GAC

  2. VERY sorry to see you go! Thanks for all your hard and sincere work over the years, and best of luck to you!

  3. Very sad to lose this great source, but we all understand your decision, of course. I will miss you both – I already do! It has been a true pleasure. Thank you for all you’ve done for theater, for our community, and for me. May the road rise to meet you in your new place, new life, and new path.

  4. This has been a marvelous contribution to the Potomac Region theater community for nearly a decade. Thank you Mike and Laura for all you did.

  5. Sorry to hear this! Best of luck in your future endeavors.

  6. Thank you both Mike and Laura for all the your dedication and hard work in covering our rich local theatre community. Your schedules are invaluable to me and everyone else in the area who depend on them to plan their theatre-going outings. I hope we will bump into each other at future shows. I know how hard it is to run a site that covers theatre and the arts and I know you put countless hours in because of your love for theatre. So thank you for your dedication and I wish you much success in everything you do.

  7. Michael and Laura,

    when I first moved to Washington DC, you guys gave me one of my first opportunities in the theater by allowing me to write for your website and I am very grateful for that experience. You guys have done so much, I can only wish the best for your future!

    Sincerely
    Courtney

  8. Mike and Laura,

    Thank you so much for your tireless efforts over the years to cover what has become a HUGE theatre community in the Potomac Region. You two were always great to work with when I was an actor and when I was working as a marketing and PR guy for several local theatre companies in the area. I will miss your coverage, but best of luck to you both in your future endeavors. I hope our paths cross again in the very near future. Congrats on your many, many accomplishments with ShowBizRadio!

  9. I know all good things come to an end, and I can imagine how hard it is to cover DC-area theater when you live somewhere else, but I’m sorry to see you go. Your hard work has produced some excellent results. Congratulations to you and the whole gang at ShowBizRadio, and best of luck in your future enterprises.

    It was fun, wasn’t it?

  10. Thank you so much Mike and Laura for all you have done for the theatre community. Your reviews not only helped the “Big Guy” in town, but made the “Little Guy” feel bigger and better about themselves. Congratulations on your many years and your many successes. We will miss you, but always know where to find you.

    Cheers
    Harry

  11. What an incredibly honest and eloquent account of your experiences. I think you are being way too hard on yourselves, but I suspect you want to leave a paper trail of your business model as either a guide or a cautionary tale for those who follow. As someone who has an inkling of what you did – writing, editing, and maintaining a website – and tried to do, while attempting to keep everyone happy, I know what an impossible task you faced. That you persevered for nine years is testament to your success. Thanks for your contributions and enjoy your well-earned (probably semi-) retirement.

  12. Many thanks for your support of the Cappies critics program throughout the years! All of our critics, students, and school communities truly appreciate it. Thanks for keeping high school theatre coverage alive and well!

  13. Mike and Laura, you have performed an exceptional service to the DC theater community. Thank you for your years of dedication to Show Biz Radio, and the creativity you showed in creating it in the first place! Are there any discussions with possible buyers or someone who might take on this gigantic labor of love? All the best to you!

  14. Good morning Debra,

    No one has expressed any interest in purchasing the site and systems from us. Not that we would really expect any one to do that, so we’ll be keeping the sites up as an archive so that links to reviews and other articles won’t go bad.

    If anyone out there is interested in buying the site, contact me, but it won’t be inexpensive. 🙂 Mike

  15. Mike and Laura,

    Maybe someone out there has interest in podcasts or audio streaming this type of content. With your catchy domain name and platform, it’s a good fit. BTW, how did you come up with the name? Inherited, evolved, or created?

  16. We started out doing reviews as a recorded conversation after we saw a show. We played the recording on our Internet radio station, and made the MP3 available as a podcast. It turned out that our station licensing didn’t let us play that recording (it was considered advertising), so that stopped. But the podcast ran for several years.

  17. Thank you so much for the work you have done. You are an invaluable source for information about local theatre. You have led me to some of the best productions I have ever seen. Your support of high school theatre means so much. The support you have given makes us students feel like we have an army behind us, and that no matter what the Cappies say, we are REAL theatre, and that feeling is so rewarding. Thank you so much for everything.