Monday, January 11, 2010

How much is Social Media Worth? $25k for Two Young Theater Companies


On December 16, 2009, Sideshow Theatre Company and The New Colony, two young, storefront theatre companies in Chicago, were awarded $25,000 each from Chase Bank. By harnessing the power of social media, both companies competed in a national pool of more than 200,000 non-profit organizations and collected enough votes on Facebook to successfully break the Top 100 charities and secure these grants. The grant is a huge achievement for both Sideshow and The New Colony, and the largest single grant awarded for either company to date. Only five theatres were awarded the grant nationwide, and Sideshow and New Colony are the only Chicago based theatre companies. Both companies were founded in Chicago in 2007.

“For companies like ours, with small budgets and no subscriber base, social media was our best marketing asset. It’s free, it’s global, and, with the right strategy, very powerful,” commented The New Colony’s Artistic Director Andrew Hobgood. “When we opened, one of the first company positions we created was a Social Media Manager. That role was critical to our audience development, and has remained our primary link and communication tool with our audience base. Chasegiving, however, has proven that social media is going to change more than just arts marketing. I expect that we will see more grants being awarded this way in the near future.”

Starting January 15, 2010, Sideshow and New Colony will compete against 98 other charities in Round 2 of the Chase Community Giving Grant, competing for the most votes and a chance at $1 million dollars in funding. The top five runners-up will receive $100,000 each, in addition to the $25,000 awarded in Round 1. Voting runs through January 22, 2010 and the Chase Community Giving Application will display a live leader board to track the Top 100 during the week of voting.

In Round 1, Sideshow Theatre Company and The New Colony took full advantage of Facebook and other forms of social media to tap directly into their audience base to gain an amazing outpouring of support. “As a company with a relatively young audience base, we're always challenged to find the ways to demonstrate that true support of a company is not just financial--it's not just big donations, though certainly that's a crucial element,” says Jonathan L. Green, Artistic Director for Sideshow Theatre Company. “I think this amazing show of advocacy for both Sideshow and The New Colony comes from a realization in our community that word of mouth is just as powerful as it is free. That sort of empowerment has been and continues to be a real focus for Sideshow.”

For Round 2, the two companies are joining forces to cross-pollinate and gather support from both audience bases and the Chicago theater community, with the hopes of helping each other remain competitive in voting for the second round. By partnering together, Sideshow and The New Colony aim to strengthen the storefront theatre and emerging artist community in Chicago.

While both organizations’ $1Million Big Ideas are not officially revealed until January 11 on Facebook, Sideshow and The New Colony are both focusing on investing in resources and development that will benefit the entire community of smaller storefronts in Chicago as well. Further, both companies are interested in cultivating new theatre audiences in Chicago, by making it easier, cheaper and more engaging for people to venture out and see a show.

Voting in Round 2 of the Chase Community Giving Grant is the fastest and easiest way for anyone to support a variety of amazing causes, including homegrown, locally based theatre. To find out more about the Top 100 charities and vote on Facebook, visit http://apps.facebook.com/chasecommunitygiving/. Individuals must become a fan of the Chase Community Giving Grant to be eligible to vote, and will receive a total of five votes, limited to one vote per organization. To learn more about Sideshow’s $1Million Big Idea and cast your vote, visit www.sideshowtheatre.org/chase. To learn more about The New Colony’s $1Million Big IDea and vote, visit www.thenewcolony.org/chase.

About Sideshow Theatre Company
Sideshow Theatre Company NFP is an Illinois-based company incorporated in November 2007, whose mission is to mine the collective unconscious of the world we live in with limitless curiosity, drawing inspiration from the stories, memories and images we all share to spark new conversation and bring our audience together as adventurers in a communal experience of exploration. Sideshow’s first production, Dante Dies!! (and then things get weird) by Walt McGough was hailed by the Daily Tribune as ‘vivid, intimate, and visually arresting’ and Time Out Chicago called Sideshow ‘impressive young talent at play.’ Since then Sideshow has produced three world premiere plays, including Everything Freezes, another winter’s tale by Walt McGough and Jonathan L. Green, and Ekphrasis: Cave Walls to Soup Cans, by E. Warren Perry Jr. Sideshow also produces CLLAW, the Chicago League of Lady Arm Wrestlers, an interactive fundraising event that benefits Sideshow Theatre Company and several other local charities. Past events have benefited Cornerstone Community Outreach, Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education, and New Leash on Life Animal Shelter. Sideshow Theatre Company is launching an Actor Workshop Series in February 2010, providing extremely affordable classes on performance and devising original work. Sideshow’s next production, Medea with Child by Pulitzer Prize nominee Janet Burroway, opens March 18, 2010 at La Costa Theatre at 3931 N Elston Ave. Chicago, IL. For more information on Sideshow Theatre Company, contact Managing Director Megan Smith at megan@sideshowtheatre.org, by phone at 312-206-8959, or visit our website at www.sideshowtheatre.org. Promotional materials including photographs, videos, interviews and other press info available upon request.

About New Colony Theatre Company
The New Colony was founded in November 2007 with a mission to collaboratively produce innovative world premiere theater being created by emerging artists for a contemporary audience. After a critically-acclaimed first season, Newcity magazine said of The New Colony, “they embody a self-perpetuating excitement for theater and each other that makes it easy to believe they may change the way new plays are made.” The New Colony’s break-out hit FRAT by Associate Artistic Director Evan Linder was listed as one of the Top Shows of 2009 in the Chicago Tribune, Newcity magazine, and Performink, where they were called “the company that really broke through this year…with three strong shows in a row.” Season Two saw a surge of audience support for The New Colony. Only two weeks after critics praised Calls to Blood, by company founder James Asmus, the show transferred to the Royal George Cabaret theater with a three-week extension. The New Colony’s next production, 11:11, by Evan Linder and Tara Sissom opens in the brand new Studio Theater at the Victory Gardens Biograph. 11:11 is supported in part by Victory Gardens’ Fresh Squezed Series, and opens February 8, running until March 13.
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