Swaggy and Unexpectable

Every once in a while, we put up an online survey, to take the temperature of the community, our audience, and our own success through the eyes of people we don't know. Survey Monkey allows us to create 10-question surveys. The results are here, but if you haven't taken our survey yet, please do. The more responses we get, the better we can assess where we are and where we should be heading.

You can still take the survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SLKV2YC.

So here are the responses we got, quite a lot of them very encouraging...!

1. How many New Line Theatre shows have you seen?

1 or 2 – 26%
5-10 – 24%
A ton – 24%
3-5 – 23%
None – 3%

2. Did you know this was New Line's 25th Anniversary Season?

Yes – 77%
No – 23%

3. What do you think of our $25 top ticket price?

Just about right – 79%
Too high – 14%
Too low! You guys are awesome! – 7%

So far, all good information to have. I was hesitant to raise our prices last season, but it looks like it was a good decision.

4. Describe New Line Theatre in one or two words.

Here are the most common answers people gave us, with the number of times they were mentioned.

edgy – 9
innovative – 8
awesome – 5
bold – 4
different – 4
fantastic – 4
progressive – 4
bad-ass – 3
daring – 3
interesting – 3
inventive – 3
original – 3
cutting edge – 2
entertaining – 2
fresh – 2
fun – 2
risk-takers – 2
thought-provoking – 2

That top word is funny to me, because I never use the word edgy myself. But I love these other answers. The whole list of answers is really long, but there are a few more that just delighted me. My two favorites were "swaggy" and "unexpectable." The internet tells me "swaggy" means confident and stylish..!? And I didn't know this, but "unexpectable" is a real word, meaning "incapable of being expected." We'll take it! There were also these: accessible, ballsy, delightfully profane, dynamic, eclectic, electric, fearless, fuck yeah! (a favorite of mine), great theatre, heart, honest, in-your-face, jaw-dropping, luscious, people die, pushing boundaries, sexy, smart, stunning, visionary, and what we need (another favorite), among a couple dozen more, So nice to read all these.

There was only a single negative comment among a couple hundred responses, which was childishly nasty, so I won't copy it here.

5. What do you think of New Line's new space, the Marcelle Theater in Grand Center?

Haven't been there yet – 39%
I really love it – 38%
It's okay – 19%
I hate it – 4%

But if you filter out the folks who haven't been there yet (you should have gotten your Heathers tickets in advance!), then 63% said they love it, and another 31% say it's okay, for a total of 94% who like our new theatre. Rob Lippert, who designed the Marcelle, will be glad to hear that.

6. What kind of musicals would you like to see at New Line? (You can choose more than one.)

The newest musicals – 75%
Musicals that challenge me – 75%
Rock musicals – 64%
Musicals I've never heard of – 50%
Musicals I know – 38%
Outrageous comedy – 36%
Older musicals – 31%
Serious drama – 30%
Rodgers & Hammerstein – 12%

Okay, who were the jokers who chose R&H? I know, I know, it's my fault for putting it in there... I was testing you. I love which answers got the highest response, "the newest musicals" and "musicals that challenge me." What an affirmation of our artistic agenda! And fully half of the people responding want to see musicals they haven't heard of before. I love that. Audiences don't only like what they already know; they like what's good.

And speaking of good...

7. Do you think the American musical theatre is in a Golden Age?

Yes, just look at all the amazing new work! – 87%
No, today's shows don't compare to the classics – 13%

I agree with you, my friends! We are in a new Golden Age of the American Musical Theatre. I've been arguing this point since 2008, and explicitly calling it that since 2010. We're in a Golden Age that started in the mid-1990s and is still going strong... Just look at Hamilton...!

8. Would you come see a hip-hop / rap musical?

Yes – 56%
Yes, if it's Hamilton – 23%
Not sure – 13%
No, not my thing – 8%

Those are encouraging numbers...

9. Would you come see an all-Black musical?

Yes – 92%
I really don't know – 5%
Probably not – 3%

I asked this because most of our regular audience did not come to see Passing Strange, which really surprised me. Then again, maybe not everyone will answer this question honestly...?

10. Anything else you'd like us to know?

I like putting an open-ended question at the end, and just see what people want to tell us. Here are many of their answers... and my responses...

– I would love to see more diversity in principal roles.
          There is a lot of diversity in our casting, including in leads. In our last show, Heathers, the leads included a Latina woman as Veronica, two black actors and one Asian actor. In Threepenny, three of the four leading women were actors of color. In Bonnie & Clyde, one of the leads was Filipino. This person should pay more attention.

– New Line productions are the best in St. Louis (and also undoubtedly in the Midwest!)

– Thank you for your free college student tickets! I love how accessible you guys make quality theatre for young people in StL!
          Music to my ears.

– Thank you for helping St. Louisans take chances in theatre. Keep up the good work!

– Night of the Living Dead is probably my favorite show you guys have done (although N2N and Heathers were AMAZING and Bukowsical was pretty great), so you should just do NOTLD every year. Cool thanks.
          You're not the only one who thinks so.

– We discovered your theatre when you put on Rent, and we have been to every musical since. You are really top-notch.

– Love u guys

– Though I like newer, more obscure shows, it can be difficult getting friends and family interested. Having one show a season that's more accessible (yet, still has that thought provoking New Line spin) makes it easier to introduce my loved ones to the company that I love so much.
          We do that often but not always...

– You rock...fully.
          A Bat Boy reference! Yay!

– Your productions are awesome!!! Please do Hamilton ASAP!!
          The minute they let us have it...

– I love that New Line is a part of St. Louis Theatre. You all are always the place to go to see new, interesting and provocative shows I can't see anywhere else, at a very reasonable price!

– New Line is my favorite live theater in St. Louis! I brought my teen son to see Rent and Hands on a Hardbody and now he is a big fan too.
          Get 'em while they're young...!

– Keep up the good work. Maybe add a close captioned night or ASL interpreter for a show.
          We are looking into that.

– A hip-hop musical would be fantastic. New Line does a great job going against the grain and casting very diverse casts. You represent this community. Ever thought about traveling to colleges to perform and Q&A with students at those schools? Having minored in theatre in college, a company like New Line to come visit and share the knowledge of theatre and more importantly. professional theatre in St. Louis would be amazing.
          It's pretty much impossible for us to travel shows, because many of our actors have day jobs. I do often go to schools to talk about our work or about the musical theatre.

– The new theatre is too small!!! I knew a lot of people that wanted to see Heathers but were boxed out too quickly. Can you please do Sweet Smell of Success?
          Yes, it is small and we love it. We've been dying to get back into a more intimate space again. The Heathers run didn't fully sell out until three weeks in. The people who got their tickets in advance got to see the show. And yes, we will do Sweet Smell of Success.

– It would be interesting to see New line's take on a classic musical. No matter what, it is always an engaging evening of theatre.
          There aren't too many classic shows that can be effectively shrunk down to our dimensions. We did Camelot...

– Keep Doing YOU! You guys are awesome!

– You should hire Cameisha Cotton again. She was amazing in Heathera and I would love to see her in another performance.
          We agree. Is this Cameisha's mother by any chance...?

– So....Scott you must be thinking of producing The Scottsboro Boys?!?! Would LOVE to see New Line's take!
          I'd love to, but I'd have to feel much more confident that we could effectively cast it...

– Keep a few tickets for high school students, same as the college students...they would enjoy being introduced to this genre
          We do have a high school discount...

It's so nice to hear back from the people we work for. I do hear from a lot of folks in the lobby, which I also love, but doing a survey like this once in a while is a good way to take our temperature, see what we're doing right, less right, etc.

But then there was this guy...
I have only had one experience with New Line, and that was when I went to see Heathers: The Musical. While I didn't particularly enjoy the show itself (it's just not my thing), I really did appreciate the overall quality of the production. The ensemble is the perhaps the best ensemble I've seen in a community theater production (emphasis on community theater). Was it worth $25.00? To put it bluntly, no. I have tickets for the Broadway Series at the Fox, and those tickets are $25.00 a piece. There is a pretty significant difference in the level of talent. You can also go to The Muny for a much more reasonable price, too. While I have only attended one live performance, I have seen several videos posted on YouTube as I have actually considered auditioning for New Line, and many of the videos left me rather unimpressed. Was it the quality of the video? Who knows... Now, I am not necessarily saying that the shows were of poor quality for community theater, BUT I don't think they would have been worth the price of admission as New Line has been described to me on several occasions by its performers as a professional theater company. Even being represented as a semi-professional theater company is a bit of overstatement, don't you think? While what I've said may seem rather harsh (I'm working on my tact), I will say that New Line is a great thing for St. Louis community theater, and if it were represented as such, along with lower ticket prices, I do believe it would be a much more enjoyable experience. Just two cents from a guy whose opinion is probably worth less than that...

Well, yes, sir, I would agree that your opinion is worth less than two cents, though you're surely entitled to it. New Line has been a professional company for twenty-five years. And all those people quoted above disagree with you and so do our audiences, the press, and funders, along with The St. Louis Theater Circle Awards, American Theatre magazine, the Rolling Stones' Rex Foundation, and New Line supporters like Stephen Sondheim, Amanda Green, and John Waters. No one is forcing anyone to buy tickets, so if you think they're too expensive, don't buy them..

Still, all in all, we got really good information here, some awesome ego stroking, and some things to think about. This is not at all a scientific poll, but it does give us some snapshot of where New Line stands at twenty-five. Again, please feel free to still take the survey if you haven't already...

And also feel free to email us or FB message us anytime, and let us know how we're doing! And stop by and read our blogs when you can and leave us a comment or two... We want to hear from you!

Long Live the Musical and New Line!