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The Show Must Go On: Live Theater, Content and Coronavirus

Plaza Theatre Company and content delivery during COVID-19



COVID-19-generated stay-at-home mandates are impacting business operations across many industries. Entertainment companies, such as live theater, have been particularly hard hit, forced to close down due to social distancing and contagion concerns.


Yet, some theater companies have employed work-arounds to continue delivering entertainment to audiences. One organization, Plaza Theatre Company, located in Cleburne, TX, implemented “Plaza Drive-Up Theatre” for this very reason.


Before going any further, let me explain why a Texas theater company is the subject of a content creation/marketing blog, penned by a content creation/marketing company principal.


The Content (Performance) Game

Business firms produce all kinds of content -- such as blogs, videos, e-mails and white papers -- to boost audience engagement and increase lead conversions.


Let me rephrase that. If business firms DON’T produce that content, they SHOULD.


That brief moment of self-interest aside, there are organizations -- such as the above-mentioned Plaza Theatre -- in which content production and delivery IS their main business. Such content includes plays, musicals and in some cases, workshops and classes. Entertaining productions boost audience engagement and size. Larger audiences mean a higher rate of lead conversions, represented by increased ticket sales and sponsorships.


A challenge occurs, however, when live theater goes dark. In such situations, content delivery ceases, impacting audience engagement and potential lead conversions.


Drive-up theater was one of Plaza Theatre’s solution to this challenge.


Parking-Lot Theater

The idea behind the concept was that audiences could attend live shows, while observing social distancing requirements. With this in mind, Plaza Theatre built a temporary stage (complete with lights and sound) outside its lobby, in front of a parking lot. Cars, containing audience members, pulled into the lot and parked, facing the stage.



As actors performed an hour-long show of tunes from favorite musicals, audience members remained ensconced in automobiles, listening to the actors, via car radio. The performances were free, with donations accepted. Plaza Theatre successfully delivered content to attendees, who were in need of something positive.


JaceSon Barrus, the company’s artistic director, explained that Plaza Drive-Up Theatre was the brainchild of Cameron Barrus (the company’s lighting director) and Madison Heaps (director of marketing). The organization worked with local officials to comply with health and other standards, and “it was amazing how quickly it came together. Even more amazing was the outpouring of support,” Barrus said.




The Takeaways

Plaza Theatre is a popular entertainment destination, with a loyal audience -- it attracts people from as far away as Fort Worth and Dallas (located 20 miles and 60 miles away, respectively). The novel way in which this organization delivered entertaining content attracted plenty of notice: It was written up in Dallas-Fort Worth newspapers, shown on local television stations, and even got a mention on CNN.


Plaza Drive-Up Theatre is a great content marketing case study for the following reasons.


1) The concept helped the organization remain in the public eye, which could have a positive impact on lead generation when the theater re-opens.


2) The content considered audience “pain points;” it was engaging and help bring cheer during somewhat dismal times.


3) The content plan and delivery were consistent with the organization’s mission and messaging.


4) The content was repurposed for other uses; the performances can be found on Facebook and YouTube, and the company is continuing to produce -- and deliver -- online performances.


Now, this write-up isn’t suggesting that a content plan should include building a stage and performing on it -- unless, of course, content is being created and delivered by a theater company or something similar. However, Plaza Drive-Up Theatre is a terrific reminder that content creation and delivery can -- and should -- continue during COVID-19 shut-downs. It also emphasizes that creativity will be noticed.


Photos courtesy of Plaza Theater Company

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