It is the Music of the People

Taking the pulse of our audiences and our community can be valuable. Doing an online survey through Survey Monkey certainly isn't "scientific" and you can't really control who's answering, but it still can offer us insights, some of them very valuable.

And since New Line is a nonprofit theatre, the public technically "owns" our company, so I thought we ought to share the results of our latest survey with you.

We did an online survey in 2015 about our company and our shows, and it was really illuminating, showing us where we were doing great and where we had some work to do. So now, two years later, we've checked back with our community. Here are the results.

1. What shows would you like to see New Line produce?
Dear Evan Hansen -- 50.00%
La Cage aux Folles -- 45.92%
Something Rotten -- 44.90%
Come From Away -- 41.84%
Nine -- 39.80%
Bright Star -- 26.53%
The Visit -- 26.53%
Be More Chill -- 21.43%
In Trousers -- 13.27%
Jasper in Deadland -- 10.20%
Naked Boys Singing -- 7.14%
Promenade -- 6.12%
No Way to Treat a Lady -- 4.08%

I guess we know our audiences and fans are tuned in to what's going on in our art form. Three of the top four vote-getters here are so new, they've not even available to us yet. But most of the shows on this list are also on our list to produce...

2. What shows would you like New Line to repeat?
Songs for a New World -- 50.00%
Bat Boy -- 38.37%
Urinetown -- 33.72%
A New Brain -- 37.21%
Hands on a Hardbody -- 29.07%
Night of the Living Dead -- 22.09%
Return to the Forbidden Planet -- 18.60%

We produced Songs for a New World in 1998, three years after its low-profile limited run off Broadway -- back when almost no one had heard of Jason Robert Brown! Now it's our top vote-getter for a return. I'd love to return to every show on this list.

3. Would you be interested in buying season tickets to New Line Theatre?
Yes -- 35.35%
No -- 21.21%
Not Sure -- 43.43%

We had a trial run late this summer with selling season tickets, and we did surprisingly well. So we'll do a full-out season ticket campaign in the spring and summer.

4. What's the main reason(s) you buy a theatre ticket?
The show being produced -- 89.90%
The producing theatre company -- 45.45%
The actors in the show -- 45.45%
Friends' opinions -- 24.24%
The director of the show -- 14.14%
Social Media posts, photos, videos, etc. -- 16.16%
Reviews -- 16.16%
The writers of the show -- 13.13%

This confirms what I thought -- it's all about the particular show. I'm convinced that a lot of people who see our shows wouldn't be able to tell you a week later the name of the producing company; they just know they liked (or didn't) the show. But I was surprised that the theatre company and the cast are important as people say they are.

5. If New Line offered Master Classes, would you be interested?
Yes -- 22.00%
No -- 34.00%
Depends on the classes -- 44.00%

We've been talking about this, so I was curious what people thought. I assume it would be all about the kind of classes we offered.

6. What kind of shows do you want to see New Line produce?
New approaches to famous shows -- 66.00%
Smart, socially conscious shows -- 60.00%
Edgy, subversive shows -- 56.00%
Brand new shows -- 44.00%
Older, lesser known shows -- 43.00%
Rock shows -- 30.00%

This was also a bit of a surprise to me, that "famous shows" got the most votes, though not far behind was New Line's bread and better, "smart, socially conscious shows" and "edgy, subversive shows." Less than half of our respondents care about "new shows," which surprised me. And less than a third want "rock shows," also a surprise.

7. So we can get an idea of how well we get our message out, tell us which of the following you think describes New Line Theatre?
Alternative -- 82.00%
Intelligent -- 45.00%
Established -- 39.00%
Political -- 37.00%
Predictable -- 10.00%
Offensive -- 10.00%
Mainstream -- 8.00%
Escapist -- 6.00%
Conventional -- 4.00%
Safe -- 4.00%

This was very nice to see. Our brand is "alternative," and 82% get that. I am amused by the 4% that say our company is "safe" -- our budget begs to differ.

8. How would you rate your overall experience with New Line, including parking, staff friendliness, concessions, seating, comfort, etc.
Outstanding -- 41.84%
Very good but could be better -- 36.73%
Average -- 17.35%
Not that great -- 3.06%
Terrible -- 1.02%

So more than 78% have a positive view of the New Line experience, and only 4% have a negative view. We certainly have room for improvement, but we're doing pretty great.

9. What do you think of our new space, The Marcelle Theater, in Grand Center?
Love it. -- 44.68%
It's nice but has its drawbacks. -- 42.55%
Don't like it. -- 12.77%

Again, more than 87% think the Marcelle is "nice" or better. Only one in eight have a bad view of our theatre.

10. How many New Line shows have you seen?
2-4 -- 31.31%
5-10 -- 29.29%
10-15 -- 15.15%
More than 15 -- 14.14%
Just One -- 10.10%

This is mostly to get an idea who's answering our survey -- die-hard fans or random people. It looks like the majority have seen a few New Line shows over the years, and a sizable minority have seen ten or more...

We got some comments as well. Two people think the seats at the Marcelle are uncomfortable; two others think they're extremely comfortable ("much more so than other companies," says one). On the question of what shows to produce, one person wrote, "Who has heard of most of these?" Lots of us. And though half of all respondents want us to do Dear Evan Hansen (and we will!), one person wrote, "Please do not do Dear Evan Hansen." Oh well, you can't please everybody. Other suggestions for shows to do include Sweet Charity (maybe), Grey Gardens (probably not), The Burnt Part Boys (love this show but probably not), Dogfight (maybe), The Light in the Piazza (maybe), Miss Saigon (probably not), Stop the World I Want to Get Off (unlikely, but you never know), and Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 (maybe). A couple people suggested shows we will never produce: Nunsense, Altar Boyz, Mamma Mia! And a couple suggested shows we've done, like Next to Normal, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, and Falsettos.

Likewise, in terms of shows to repeat, a ton of people asked for Bat Boy, but one person said, "Not Bat Boy. Never again please." Altogether, people asked for TWENTY different shows to return, in addition to those I listed in the survey question. That's a really nice compliment from our fans, that so many different New Line shows are so special to different people. The most asked-for repeats in these comments are Hair, Rent, Heathers, and Bonnie & Clyde.

One person complained that parking is terrible -- even though we have a free, lighted parking lot right across the street, and free street parking. Not sure what they want. My favorite comment of all was, in all caps, "SO GRATEFUL FOR NEW LINE THEATRE."

It's always encouraging to be reminded that, even when certain shows don't sell well, even when our budget is precarious, even when running the company is way harder than I would prefer, people in our community still believe in what we're doing, still think our work is valuable to them, still think that our community needs what only New Line brings to it.

And they keep sending donations and they keep buying tickets. What we do matters to people. And that's everything.

Long Live the Musical! And New Line!