Saturday, August 25, 2012

Publicity 3. Community Calendars

Utah Event Advertising--for Free!

Early on, it occurred to me that community events calendars would be a great way to advertise for Wilford's Conversion. It's free, and people actually use them to find shows to go to. Here, I've created a list of Utah community and entertainment events calendars--with some tips and commentary. The title of each organization I list is linked to the online form for submitting an event on that org's calendar (when applicable).


KRCL. This is a radio station (90.9 FM). They allow you to upload a logo image, which needs to be 150 pixels wide by 170 pixels tall. Shauna Hatton, one of our Wilford's Conversion actresses, created the logo image--and I used it for all the other calendars that let us upload an image.

KUER. This is the local public radio station based at University of Utah (90.1). They allow you to upload a logo image.

KSL. This is local news radio. (102.7 FM, 1160 AM) They have an events calendar, but it's just for their KSL events, you can't add events.

KBYU. This is the classical station based at Brigham Young University, "Classical 89." (89.1 FM) They have an events calendar, but it's just for their KBYU events, you can't add events.


Now Salt Lake. This is a little entertainment newspaper in Salt Lake associated with the Salt Lake Tribune. Before the Trib even read the press release we sent them, I had gone online to try to add our event to the Now Salt Lake events calendar.  However, the website didn't allow me to enter our information, because it requires that your event venue be one of the places they list in a drop down menu. I didn't understand why they couldn't just have "Other: _____________" as one of the options. A few days after my failed attempt, I found our event on their website--so, I guess they input events that the Trib reporters forward to them.

Salt Lake Tribune. I heard that the press edition of the Salt Lake Tribune does a Friday section called, "The Mix." It's an entertainment/arts calendar. I assume this online brief with our event info appeared in print in that section.

Deseret News. You can't create a community calendar event online for these guys. When I called the community calendar lady, Linda Arave (801. 237. 2100), she said you have to mail it in to

P.O. Box 1257
SLC, UT 84110

But, I didn't need to do that, because when I called the DN to follow up about my press release, I requested that it be put in the community cal, which they did for me.

City Weekly. This is another great SLC local news source, with a beefy entertainment events calendar. However, I've noticed that from time to time, articles in CW have an anti-LDS bias. I would certainly use it to publicize a secular play, but not Wilford's Conversion.

The Daily Herald. This newspaper allows you to add events to their calendar, but you have to register an account, first. I think our info ended up on their cal, because they put it on after receiving our press release.


Fox 13 News. This lets you add your event online. For some reason, I couldn't get their website to let me upload an image, but everything else worked out.

KSL. As far as I could figure out, these guys don't have a community calendar.

Other This is a Utah tourism website. It was easy to use. However, it didn't allow me to upload an image. This is a very cool entertainment events website. The Utah Arts Council website referred me to it.  In addition to allowing you to add events with an image (1MB max, and has to be JPG), they have a section where you can search for or post artist profiles. This website was difficult to use, because it requires you to create an account first. It also doesn't let you put in multiple dates at once, you have to create a new event for each date of the performance.

I don't really know how many audience members these community events calendar listings brought in for us. But it's a great way to get the attention of people who are actually out there looking for events to go to--and it's free advertising!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Transparent Budget for Wilford's Conversion

Now that I've had a month to recuperate from Wilford's Conversion, I'll be posting now and then about the work that went into it, the information I gathered, and the lessons I learned. Here's a summary of our budget:

We made $1089.50 selling tickets at the door. $5 each for adults. That means we had 217.9 paying audience members. (My dad told me that he let someone in for $4.50.) This worked out great for us, because I spent money based on the expectation that we would have at least 180 paying audience members. And then, of course, there were expenses I didn't originally anticipate . . . In summary, we got very close to breaking even.

Total Spending        $1282.29

Actors' Pay                $480.00
Costumes                   $398.95
Tithing                       $108.95
Sound                         $100.00
Publicity                       $87.79
Props                            $49.97
Scripts/Binders            $24.03
Auditions                     $19.85
Playbill/Tickets            $12.80

Although we didn't make a profit, I decided to pay tithing (Yes, I'm a Mormon) on what we made in ticket sales. The "Auditions" cost was the cost of printing audition posters, and other audition forms. Actor's pay depended on the size of the role. Each actor earned $10-$80.

I was very grateful to find a sound guy willing to provide the equipment, and man the sound board for three performances. However, working with a cheap system proved to be a liability in the end. For future performances, I will make sound a bigger budget priority. Planning to perform outdoors didn't work out for us, either. I'll be posting soon about affordable performances spaces that I want to consider. Many of these will come with their own mic system, or be small enough that actors can easily project their voices.

I certainly spent more money on costumes than I would have liked. My original plan was to spend only $200. The most expensive items were men's early 19th century jackets rented from Hale Center Theater (both the West Valley City, and Orem locations). I tried to justify keeping the actors in shirts and vests, but in the end, I decided it didn't make sense for the actors to go without jackets in the play's winter scenes. I'll post more on costumes soon.

Next year, I plan to spend more money on advertising, and host a greater number of performances (5 or 6 instead of 3).

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Publicity 2. What the Press is Saying about Wilford's Conversion

The Daily Universe, BYU's student newspaper has published an article about our play, Wilford's Conversion. The article is titled, New play tells little-known stories about modern-day prophet. The article was also re-printed in LDS Living Magazine.

Article Published by Desert News
The Deseret News published our press release info in the Mormon Times section of their paper, under the title, Play shows President Woodruff's life. And the Ogden Standard-Examiner published a short article about us called, Play about LDS prophet, Wilford Woodruff, to debut in SLC.

And a feature-writer for Utah County's Daily Herald interviewed me, Marilyn Oblad (the owner of the Wilford Woodruff Farmhouse), and a couple of our actors. Here's the article: Play highlights conversion story of Wilford Woodruff.

Fox 13 Now posted our entire press release on their events calendar.

Above their show listing information for the week, the Salt Lake Tribune featured a large photo of Shauna Hatton, one of the actresses in Wilford's Conversion.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Publicity 1. Press Releases

Press releases are a great way to beg for free publicity. After three weeks of work, I finally got all our Wilford's Conversion press releases out--woot! Here are a few things I learned along the way.

Writing the Press Release

Photo I sent with PRs,
Rainer Rohde at a costume fitting.
I had no idea what direction to take in writing the press release to begin with. After reading a lot of obvious garbage on how-to sites, I realized that I needed to include more than just the performance dates and venue address. It needed to somehow be a news story. What about our show was newsworthy? I asked myself. The fact that it's a semi-professional production with an eight-piece orchestra? The fact that the producer/writer/director is a stay-at-home-mom and fake blonde who needs to dye her roots?

Photo I sent with PRs,
Shauna Hatton at a costume fitting.
So, I went through half a dozen examples of theatrical production press releases, and decided to focus on the newsiness of the story itself. After all, it's the premiere of a brand-spanking-new show. So, I found a couple of ways to summarize (but not give away) the plot, and added the who, what, where, how, and when stuff regarding production. As far as organization goes, all the how-tos say to arrange the information the same way you should write a newspaper article, pyramid-style. That is, you put the meatiest, most important stuff first, then the less important stuff, and finally, basic info about who's producing it, and how to contact us to find out more. I assumed that strategy meant putting the performances dates, times and location close to the top, but my mother (with some PR experience) said to put the dates and city at the top, but the more specific time and address details at the bottom.

Photo I sent with PRs,
John Hinckley at a costume fitting.

Here's the basic version of our press release, New Pioneer Day Play at Wilford Woodruff historic farmhouse. (I snuck in the part about the orchestra after all.)

I then sent modified versions of the PR to news-sources with specialized audiences. For example, in the PR I sent to Brigham Young University's student newspaper, I changed the title to "New Pioneer Day play features BYU talent" and made a fuss about Josh Huss, the BYU student who plays our leading man. In the PR I sent to my community's newspaper, The West View, I emphasized the fact that our actors and production team members come from various parts of the state, including Salt Lake City's west side. For the Mormon Times paper, I changed the title to "New Pioneer Day Play at prophet's historic home."

One of the most time-consuming tasks in this process was figuring out where to send the press releases. It turns out, most news source don't clearly state on their websites to what email address a Pioneer Day-related theater production press release should be sent. Below is the contact information I used, plus a little commentary.

The Deseret News is a Utah-wide news source. Mormon Times and Church News are owned by Deseret News, which is owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

When I called the main news-tips phone number for the Deseret News (801.575.5600), I asked who I should talk to about sending a press release to the Mormon Times. They transferred me to the office for Mormon Times and Church News (801.333.7402). I spoke to a very encouraging guy who said to send the press release, for immediate release, right away--it was June 25, a month before the show. He said that I could request in the email message before the press release that the story get attention 1-2 weeks before the show, that the story be considered for the feature section of the Deseret News, and be put in the community calendar. He also said that it was okay that I didn't have photos to attach right then, that I should indicate in the email that I would send some later. So, I did all of that. He had me send the PR to

KSL is a Utah-wide news souce that has several different news sub-orgs, KSL News Radio, televised KSL News, print, etc. But I sent a general press release to

The Salt Lake Tribune, is another large Utah newspaper. You can find contact info for individual reporters on their website, but I sent our press release to, because it suggested sending "entertainment/arts" tips there.

The DU is the student newspaper for Brigham Young University. They take press releases at

The West View is a new Salt Lake City west side community newspaper produced by West View Media. I haven't been able to find a website for them (maybe they don't have one, yet), but I did find the West View Media Facebook page. Coincidentally, they had a recent post stating their all purpose contact email to which I sent the press release: I think this paper is a quarterly one, so I'm not sure if I sent the release in time to get it in their paper before the show--next year, I'll be sure to send it much earlier.

Fox 13 is a televised and print news source based in Ogden, Utah. Their website doesn't give a regular email you can send stuff to, so I sent the press release in their online message form for newstips.

The Standard-Examiner is an Ogden newspaper. They take press releases at

This is a Utah County newspaper. They have a page with contact info for individual staff members. I sent the press release to both Cody Clark, the movie reviewer/religion reporter (, and features editor, Elyssa Andrus (

Now I'm just crossing my fingers, hoping our story will get published.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Today's Brainstorm:

I just had a great idea for a new (possibly 2013) production. The Artist, Interrupted conference I attend this April featured a panel discussion which included a member of the Utah Arts Council. She explained to us there, something I had learned before, but never really applied to myself. You can get grants for artistic projects if you prove that your work is something that will educate, or otherwise benefit the community.

This morning, I've been thinking: I could write and produce a play that gets ESL students to apply their skills outside of class. We could put it on at the Sorenson Unity Center or at the WVC Cultural Center, or even at the park. The project would start with a writing contest for which they submit personal essays entitled, "An Incredible True Story." The prize for the most interesting story is that we use it for the play. I wouldn't want them to incriminate themselves (y'know, in case they want to tell border-crossing stories), so, I'd have to make some rules, that help them keep their confidentiality. Because, eventually, the audience will need to know that the play was based on a true story written by one of the students. And then there's always the possibility that I'll choose three plays and do a series of three one-acts, or somehow fuse the stories together. And why not make it a musical?

Eventually, the project will be about publicizing the show. I'd love the focus to be on getting not just their families, but the Salt Lake community to attend. There's got to be a motivation for them to improve their English, and for this to be something that can bring native English speakers, and English language learners together. What would draw people to this? What would it take to get the library system to adopt this?

If we got a grant we could pay for performance space, a music composer, an accompanist,  and some serious advertising.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Independent Producer--Me?

There are a lot of back stories I could tell here. Like the one about 10-year-old me running upstairs after watching Newsies in the basement,  reenacting a singing, dancing, workers' strike to my reflection in the living room window. Something quaked my heart, and I promised myself that I would make music, theater, and dance a life-long venture.

Then there's the story about me feeling inspired to quit my status as a pre-Music-Dance-Theater major at BYU in favor pursuing the career of High School English Teacher for the stable, predictable lifestyle of glamour it offered. (That, and I had discovered I love writing!)

Another story involves me chatting with Marilyn Oblad, a descendent of Wilford Woodruff (an important Utah pioneer and leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.) Marilyn puts on a Wilford Woodruff show every year at her home (the historic Wilford Woodruff Farmhouse), with a very old script, a faithful cast, and no director. She invited me last year (2011) to meet with the players and see if I couldn't sprinkle on a little professionalism. Our summer interactions ended with an agreement that I'd write a new script, pull together a new cast, and produce/direct a new show ready to premiere Summer 2012.  And wonder of wonders, here I am doing just that.

And then this one time (four weeks ago) I was sitting in a car telling my friend, Mariah, how ridiculous it is that I stack up my life with piles of little projects in an attempt to be a teacher, a dancer, a graphic designer, a sociologist, a choreographer, a singer/song-writer, an author, a director, and a stay-at-home-mom all at the same time. 
"I feel like I'm stuck in this mediocre limbo between amateur and professional," I said, "because I'm only giving hobby time to each one of these. Maybe if I just focus on one area, and try to excel, I might actually become an influential voice in the artistic community."

"Well, why not combine your hobbies?" she answered. "You could keep writing plays and producing them--like what you're doing with this Wilford Woodruff play."
[Aside: Several months ago, the idea of producing a play in a rented performance space sounded outrageous to me. I had always assumed that that was inevitably too expensive. But this spring, I helped book performance, studio, and meeting spaces for an artist and dancer's conference (Artist, Interrupted). In doing so, I discovered a couple of nice black-box theaters in Salt Lake that rent out at very reasonable rates. I was also inspired when I learned that an old high school classmate of mine, Hampton Dohrman, now makes a profession of helping people find alternative performance spaces for cheap.]

Mariah was right. Why not flambeau all my interests into one pot and call it theater? From hence, I summon forthish my future monsters! Musicky comedies about social disparities, historicals, gregoricals, phantasmagoricals, passion plays, and here and there a minimalism that ends with an interpretive dance, etc.