Devious Theatre & Dario Fo

FROM LAST September to March gone, I spent seven months producing (and acting in) two major productions with The Devious Theatre Company. We embarked on the mission of a Dario Fo season. Not content with doing just one show, we sprang for two and almost went for a third two months ago. Of all of our productions to date, Accidental Death of an Anarchist and Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay! will stand out for a long time to come.

Whereby with previous shows we’ve released clips of various scenes, the Mycrofilms crew have put together a mashup of both productions in around six minutes or so to give you a flavour of what took place in the Set Theatre in Kilkenny in December 2009 and March 2010.

The good news for theatre folk is that we may be back sooner than you thought. After all, it wouldn’t be a summer in Kilkenny without some kind of Devious activity…

Online Ticket Sales For Theatre Companies

Recorded reading of Can't Pay? Won't Pay!
Recorded cast reading of Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay this past Saturday. That’ll be me pictured on the right of show, playing the role of Giovanni.

THE DEVIOUS theatre company, one of my other / many hats, have announced details of our first major production in 2010, Dario Fo’s Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay! and I’ll be on KCLR96FM around 4:15pm afternoon chatting about the show. You can tune in via KCLR96FM.com (live stream link).

We do a lot of things online as a company, given we have no physical premises as such (bar sharing each others offices for the odd rehearsal / recording session). We blog, we connect, we share videos, tweet, hold our meetings online, use private forums for staff discussion, provide online resources, scripts and schedules for cast and crew, we advertise (and have completed a few useful Facebook ad campaigns), we podcast, we’ve an online CRM setup for managing contacts and suppliers and a whole lot more besides. The next logical step of course was to start selling tickets online.

I had long thought about it for the group, given the wide variety of venues we’ve performed in, the growing and varying audiences we’re attracting show-on-show, and the difference in management for pre-bookings or box office practice per venue that it would be good to introduce something online that we could manage ourselves, cost effectively as well.

Enter Eventbrite, which within ten minutes of using I had our December performance of Accidental Death of an Anarchist up and running, with five nights of tickets to buy for, connected out to our Facebook profile to plug the event there and (add on another five minutes or so) tickets available via DeviousTheatre.com with their embedding service.

So with a new show on the horizon and tickets gone to the printers, we figured we’d do exactly the same for our production of Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay! in March.

There were a lot of plusses for using the service. To start with, it opened the door to a potential new revenue stream for the group. We decided that 2010 would be the year we focus on turning the group towards a business, the first step for us in bringing the company “professional” (join the queue for the debate between amateur and professional theatre) and as such, revenue streams have to be looked at. We spend a lot of time, as a group, online in promoting and documenting our shows and we felt that online ticket sales would give us the ability to reach those that are the more serious web users, those au fait with booking online. We also wanted a way to provide ticket sales to people traveling from out of town, those who couldn’t travel to Kilkenny before the box office closed at six, or those who didn’t want to give credit card details over the phone. On both, accounts, it worked.

That was the test – would it work. I would have considered it a success if one person had bought one ticket online, at least we know it worked. But one turned into three, turned into 17 and more as the weekend theatregoers turned up with their pre-printed tickets (made available by Eventbrite), our door staff crossing off the checklist of those who registered and paid for tickets online (also made available by Eventbrite) and as a plus for us, we had immediate access for funds to use online in advance of the production. As the payments go from Eventbrite to our Paypal account, and we’re avid eBay users for sourcing props for shows over the years, we’ve created a stream of income we didn’t quite have before.

For some of those people attending Accidental Death of an Anarchist, who bought their tickets online, it was their first time to see one of our productions – a further success in my eyes. Would they have come to the show or traveled 30 miles to Kilkenny if they hadn’t been able to buy their tickets online? Maybe, maybe not, but they came. And as a bonus, we’ve decided that those who did purchase tickets online for our first show will receive a nice discount on the online purchases if they want to buy tickets for Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay! online. A token gesture for us, yes, but at the same time we’re hoping it would encourage people to return again and enjoy another night at the theatre.

The tickets for Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay are on sale. You can pick them up online here and here. There is a booking fee of €1.07 per ticket sold online, something that we’re also able to manage ourselves and it’s how Eventbrite (much like the credit card companies or physical theatres) will make their money from box office sales. When Eventbrite deliver funds per show / ticket sold, those funds include the booking fee. Post-event we’re invoiced from Eventbrite to recoup the booking fee, and again, it’s a straight Paypal transaction. Outside of that, there’s no other cost involved. No membership fee, no setup fee, nothing.

So we add online ticket sales to our bow, and we know that it works. I’m still tempted into doing an online theatre production, or live-streaming one of our own productions but we’ll have to talk to the licensing powers that be about that one.

And yes, I’m sure there are other ticket-selling resources available but we’ve tried Eventbrite, made it work, had it generate revenue and open a whole other realm of online promotion for the group so we’re happy to keep going with it.

Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay! runs at the Set Theatre, John Street, Kilkenny from Wednesday March 10th to Sunday March 14th 2010. Tickets available online priced €13 ex booking fee. Keep an eye on DeviousTheatre.com for more details.

Beaten Up For My Love Of The Arts

Ken McGuire plays the Superintendent

If you believe the above photo, I’ve been beaten up for my love of the arts. Or more for the honour of performing with the DTC actors again in our production of Accidental Death Of An Anarchist which opens next Wednesday night in the new Set Theatre on John Street, Kilkenny.

We’re (as in The Devious Theatre Company) taking our next production to the new 252-seater space for a five night run commencing Wednesday December 2nd and wrapping Sunday December 6th.

Written in 1970, Accidental Death Of An Anarchist was inspired by events that took place in Italy in 1969 when an anarchist, Giuseppe Pinelli fell – or was thrown – from the fourth floor window of a Milan police station. He had been accused of a campaign of bombing, of which he was later found innocent. The resultant scandal uncovered a system rife with corruption and intensified public rage at the government. Intensification of public rage is something that Dario Fo is a master of with his work challenging church, government and the authorities in Italy for over 50 years.

Accidental Death Of An Anarchist takes place as an enquiry into the anarchist’s death is causing the policemen involved to have some difficulties remembering the details of the event. That is, until a nameless deranged madman shows up and proceeds to tie the authorities around his fingers in a master class performance of utter logic. The cast includes Alan Butler, Sean Hackett, Simone Kelly, myself, John Morton and David Thompson playing the famed role of the shape shifting Madman. Having previously donned the director’s hat for Trainspotting (2008), John finds himself wearing it again for this production (and also the followup with Fo’s Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay! next spring)

As is usually the case with adaptations of Dario Fo, this production will look at the events of the play through the prism of modern Ireland and the corruption and scandals inherent in our own political systems. Employing the comedic methods of commedia dell’arte and slapstick as used by Dario Fo, Accidental Death Of An Anarchist is an uproariously funny farce which rallies against political injustice and corruption.

To mark the occasion of the opening of the new show I’ve got two tickets sitting here on my desk that I would like someone to have. They’re for the opening night of the show on Wednesday coming and if you would like a chance at winning the tickets, leave a comment and tell me which Italian playwright penned Accidental Death Of An Anarchist. We’ll leave things run until tomorrow evening perhaps, say 5pm tomorrow (Friday) to try get a winner.

The show itself runs nightly at 8pm, doors open 7:30pm, we’ve priced tickets at €12 for some very affordable theatre and they can also be bought from Langtons on John Street, Rollercoaster Records on Kieran Street (Kilkenny) and online via DeviousTheatre.com.