The ArtsCenter in North Carolina has a lot going on. Director of the ArtsCenter stage Jeri Lynn Schulke and Marketing Director Adam Graetz shed some light on it!
Jeri Lynn Schulke: Since ’74 – it’s kind of an establishment here. It started as one painting class – the art school was the first iteration, then I think theatre, then concerts. It began to grow organically. We offer everything from classes to concerts, national touring theater, and we present our own. And we provide after school programs — so theatre isn’t just one area of the ArtsCenter.
JM: How does 44 Plays fit into your programming?
JLS: I’ve only had this job for a little while, and I’m an actor by trade, so I’ve never felt like, “Oh I want to do this or that play.” So it was a learning curve for me. It was about 3-4 months ago that I realized the shows I was looking at were all similar — historical in some regard — and newer… I thought, “wow those are all based on history!” We’ve got a sophisticated and smart community. Canvas-tote bagging, NPR listeners. I think this will really target them. Plus, there’s comedy and across the board it’s for a broad audience.
JM: Adam, how are you getting the word out?
Adam Graetz: At our 10-minute play festival we’ve had some sold out weekends and we’re getting all those folks season brochures, we’ve been doing Twitter and Facebook – a big social marketing push. And then some NPR spots as we get closer. That’s to bring in some of our existing folks. As far as new markets — we’ve got a huge network of folks in the retirement communities to get the word out where we feel like we see more clients. We’re interested in different ways to reach audiences. Also we’ve got a season video outlining our season and Jeri Lynn speaking to the audience so they can see what we’ve got it going on here.
JM: Tell me about your connection to President Pierce?
JLS: His vice president, William King, was from this area — and he may or may not have been gay — may have had a relationship with Buchannan. It will be good to play that up. It’s definitely an issue that won’t go away. People that care about it are going to continue to fight!
JM: I hear you have quite a few community outreach ideas. Any you can share?
JLS: One idea is doing presidential portraits. I know other theatres have done it, but we have some built in cross-promotion within the building that we can use — after school kids and adult classes to create them — put them up in the theatre or in the building. I’m going to be reaching out to a local bookstore about brining in some presidential biographies — perhaps bringing some actors there. We have a lot of colleges around here. We want to have some different panel discussions with historians, and say, “Hey!Promote this to your classes!” Finally, we’re participating in SparkCon: a city-wide arts festival where all these different arts disciplines get together and do whatever they want the entire weekend. So we have a time slot where we can present a snippet of the play as well as pop-ups where we can have the actors just start performing on the street and handing out fliers.
JM: What drew you into 44 Plays?
JLS: Frankly, I think Genevra’s parents told us about it. And the Festival reached out to us. And I was like, “heck ya!” It just sounded perfect. It’s a good fit for us in that the production is fairly minimal — you can expand it as much as you want — and I think that’s good for us. We try to keep it lean. We also share our theatre with everything that happens in the building so that if there’s a concert that’s in the space we can move easily. I knew the actors in the area would be jazzed about it and I knew we could get a really great director on board, so I knew it was a good fit for us.
JM: Is there one thing that you’re excited to market?
AG: Personally, being a news junkie, I’m very interested – in terms of the political consequences. It comes at a crucial time for this election cycle. Reflecting on our past and these men who’ve held the office. Having a sort of community wide, “what exactly are we doing when we go to the polls?” What qualities do we feel we need to have? I think that’s most exciting to me. What we feel the American President should look like and just making people more interested in it. I’m definitely going to approach that. That’s very exciting. I think it’s a big part of what I’m going to be playing on.
JLS: And I think the media in this area will latch on. And if we can get them early on we’re going to be more than promoting a regular play. Paper press people I think could get really behind this which will always help that kind of cacophony.
JM: I hear you’re interviewing audience members on why to vote?
JL: I thought it would be a cool thing to do a short video of audience members to talk about why it was important to vote. Even before they come to see the play – targeting people that you know — like the mayor — or even old mayors or current folks in the government. So having those sort of clips that we can put onto YouTube and putting them in a blast. And we could update that again right before the show.
Jeri Lynn Schulke is the Director of ArtsCenter Stage at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro. In addition to acting, Jeri Lynn has worked both as a freelance instructor, teaching students 5-75 everything from movement to Shakespeare, and as a casting director at a media start-up company. Jeri Lynn is a founding member of No Shame Theater. She plans to dust off her tap shoes one of these days.
Adam Graetz is Marketing Director at the ArtsCenter. Adam is a North Carolina native hailing from Greensboro, NC. He has been at The ArtsCenter for 2 years now and directs the marketing efforts there. In his personal time he enjoys practicing video production, graphic design, projection and video design, web development, and essentially any digital media forms that can be artistically manipulated.