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The process of producing a play begins long before the curtain ever rises, and it takes many very creative minds to get it ready for opening night. In the case of King Lear, we began having production meetings in December – three and a half months before the show opened – and one of the very first things we talked about was how we wanted to present this story. We considered stylistic issues (like realism, impressionism, etc.) and the set design. The decision had already previously been made to make this the first show in the new black box, so we knew that we’d be working with a thrust set, and would thus have the audience on three sides.

Our set design, by Gary Dartt, featured ramps and platforms that all led to a disc at center stage. This allowed us to bring actors on and off from any side of the stage. So as we began to block each scene we had to make choices about what was the most important moment in a scene, and ensure that those moments took place in the most powerful positions on stage. Other, less important moments we could choose to favor one side over the other, intentionally creating a spacial imbalance on stage. We would run each scene and view it from each side, to make sure that each side was able to see all or most of the action on stage. So, in effect, by sending only one message – the actors and their blocking – we created three different messages that were received by three different target audiences.

So how do we do this with PR? The same event can be portrayed in different manners to your targeted audiences by changing the medium and messages you use to communicate. Lets use again Shakespeare’s “King Lear”. Here is the story of a king who decides to turn over his country and power to his three daughters. He misjudges his daughter and banishes the daughter and knight who are loyal. He then Gives his kingdom to his two daughters who mean him harm. When they do turn on him, he, in his old age, goes mad as he deals with being homeless and powerless.

One play with only one plot, but by selecting a variety of channels, we can tailor this story to multiple audiences. The first and easiest audience to target is the school’s students. To them we can highlight the cheap student tickets of $4, and the ability to see a high quality production of a classic that would cost them $40 in a major theatre in the city. This audience is easily reached through the campus’ many student-run media outlets

Next we can appeal to the local families in town by highlighting the struggles that families go through during the transition of power age. In a rural farming town this is an issue that every generation faces as the farms and lands have to be divided and passed on. This theme of Patriarchal dividing of lands runs throughout the play. These audiences are best reached through the local paper and television advertisements.

There is still a third, smaller, niched audience that we can appeal to with this play. Many scholars believe that King Lear begins to show signs of the first stage of Alzheimer’s (The Bard on the Brain). In the South Georgia region there are several large mental health care facilities as well as a large assisted living industry. Many of these places have doctors, nurses and even clients who might be interested in seeing the play with that in mind. So sending a special press release to those centers as well as regional medical journals are all ways to reach a large, unreached audience.

Keep in mind then as you begin the communication planning process that there are often several different audiences who may be interested in your event, product, information, or service. So stop, and try and see your stage from all sides.


This semester I assistant directed William Shakespeare’s “King Lear” in our new black box theatre at Georgia Southern University. For those of you not familiar with a “black box theatre” its a theatre known as a “flexible space”. This means that you can arrange the seating to place the audience anywhere in the theatre. For this show we elected for a “thrust” set up – where the audience is stage left, right, and down. The audience sits on every side but the back of the set.

So, throughout the entire process, from the pre-planning phases to closing night we had to consider not just one audience’s perspective, but three. Throughout this process I was reminded of some very interesting correlations to Public relations and communication. I will break them down in subsequent posts, but for now I’ll leave you with some questions to think about targeting multiple audiences:

What are some advantages and disadvantages to targeting multiple audiences with the same strategies and tactics?

Is it possible to use one message to effectively communicate with multiple audiences?

What impacts does targeting multiple audiences have on your budget? Calendar? Mediums and channels?

Are certain audiences more easily targeted together than others?

I’ll address all of these issues in later posts with examples, anecdotes and stories of success and failure, but for now I’m curious to know what you think about these questions, and what kind of experiences you’ve had when targeting multiple audiences.

May 2018
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