You, the cast, and crew have worked tirelessly on the show, and now it’s time to promote your play. Sure, you could share a photo the play’s program cover on Facebook or tweet out performance dates. But with a little planning and a splash of creativity, you can promote your play in fresh ways that grab attention (that hopefully translates to attendance!).

You already know what you like to see and what you respond most to on social media. Remember that if your audience is your same demographic then what works for you might engage them, too! And here are six easy and engaging ideas to try:

1. Post still photos from dress rehearsals to promote your play

Even if your show isn’t “final,” photos from dress rehearsals give your audience an exciting sneak peek of what they’ll see at the live show. Focus on scenes that have bright colors, flashy costumes, big emotions, or exciting action (a sword fight, a big choreo number, etc.).

Aim for dynamic photos that capture action and emotion, rather than from-the-audience snapshots of the whole stage. Get close-ups of individual actors or ensemble groups, or a midair shot of your featured dancers. Bishop Gorman High School’s Gaels Theatre Guild in Las Vegas (@thegaelstheatreguild) shared a nice batch of stage photos for its production of Peter and the Starcatcher.

2. Share in-progress photos or videos

Share behind-the-scenes looks of your production as it comes together. People get invested when they feel like they are part of the process. Share images of different drafts of set designs or costumes, a partially painted backdrop, or a view of the light- or soundboard as technicians are marking cues. Before-and-after pictures or a time-lapse video are great ways of showing off your crew’s hard work and promoting your play.

Marble Falls High School, Troupe 3701, in Marble Falls, Texas (@mfhstheatre), put together an Instagram Story that included a series of videos covering the rotating house its crew built for their production of Bright Star. The first video shows the barn as the last beam of the roof is moved into place. And subsequent videos show the barn during its first test rotations, being spiked with tape for blocking, rolling into dance rehearsals, and (finally) coming down during set strike.

3. Remember the cast and crew backstage

Parents love seeing pictures of their kids, and students love seeing pictures of themselves and their friends making theatre! Have your cast or your crew teams (lighting, hair and makeup, etc.) take selfies as they work on their crafts, then encourage them to share to their own profiles. Roger Bacon High School’s drama guild in Cincinnati (@rbdramaguild) had a great collection of behind-the-stage photos for its production of Once on This Island.

4. Set up takeovers

For a truly fresh approach to promote your play, let one of your actors take over the social feed in character. They could ad-lib responses to questions by viewers—especially fun for well-known characters or characters with big personalities.

Or hand over the account to other members of your crew for a day. This gives followers a look at aspects of the production they may forget happens for the show to be a success. You could even rotate who’s taking over the account at different rehearsals. That’s what Los Alamitos High School,  Los Alamitos, California (@losaldrama), did in the lead up to an outdoor production of Behind the Computer Screen. The crew members took over the troupe’s Instagram Story and filmed pre-show rituals, interviews with students in the production, glances at their tech setup, and more.

5. Post “fan” art

Team up with your school’s art department (or talented artists in your production) to create custom artwork related to the show. This could be a re-creation of a famous scene, a character portrait, or graphic art inspired by the show’s setting. Bonus: Depending on your licensing agreement (more on that later), you can maybe use this artwork on your program cover or in other advertisements, such as posters.

Here’s one that a student created for Mercy McAuley High School’s  production of Tarzan in Cincinnati (@theatreatmmhs). Notice the credits for source material, music and lyrics, and book.

6. Push Out Announcements

Don’t forget to schedule posts once your troupe announces its next season of shows. This will attract students to sign up as well as families and community members interested in viewing the finished product. Other news highlights to share include award nominations, fundraisers, and senior bios.

What you should NOT post to promote your play

Unless your production is entirely original, your director likely had to purchase rights to perform a show. That agreement included rules about what your troupe can and cannot do with copyrighted material such as music and logos.

Before you decide what to post on social media from a show, talk to your director about the terms of that licensing agreement. You may be prohibited from sharing certain things online or in promotional materials. (And since social media is public, it wouldn’t be hard for representatives of licensing companies to check in and enforce them!)

With that in mind, you should probably avoid the following content in your social media posts:

● Excerpts from songs: As many troupes have discovered during the COVID-19 pandemic, licensing agreements often only cover on-stage performances—not uses outside of that context, like live streams or social media posts. So instead of uploading one of your actors singing a song from the show, consider having them sing something else. An example from the pros: Renée Elise Goldsberry, Phillipa Soo, and Jasmine Cephas-Jones (the original “Schuyler Sisters” from Hamilton on Broadway) sang Billy Joel’s The Longest Time on YouTube to help promote their show. Or share still photos from a music rehearsal, or a video clip of vocal warmups.

● Line-reads from scenes: As with songs, spoken scenes from a production are likely not covered in your licensing agreement. Instead, have your cast pose with their scripts, or snap a few pictures during a table read or blocking session.

● Logos: Use of a show’s actual logo might require an additional license. If your agreement doesn’t include the original logo, create a similar one to use across all your marketing, from the program to posters to T-shirts to painted banners around the school.
Another factor to keep in mind: Who are you trying to reach? Older audiences still prefer Facebook, while younger audiences generally prefer Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok. YouTube is a cross-generational option for any promotional videos you might have. 

Andrew Koch is one of those “old” Millennials who has a TikTok account. He’s a writer and editor from Cincinnati.

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