Time Out New York's David Cote Discusses the State of the OOB Art
David Cote is the Theatre Editor at Time Out New York. Cote took time out of his busy schedule to discuss the new Off-Off-Broadway highlights page, the current state of Off-Off-Broadway in the media, and tips on how to get your show to stand out from the rest.
Roman: So I recently opened up the last issue of Time Out New York and saw some changes to the Off-Off-Broadway listings. Can you tell me how that came about?
Cote: We are always trying to find new ways to serve the reader. We ask ourselves, basically, how can we hook readers up with good shows? Not just the ones we review but the many others that continuously come in. We thought, maybe we should keep the dozens of listings, but we could create a single page that was attractive to the reader but also informative and that made recommendations to the reader as well. Sort of like turning up the volume on showcasing shows we really like. The reviews are good, but this page brings it to the next level. We want to showcase shows that take risks and give readers a bang for their buck.
R: In your opinion, how important is Off-Off-Broadway to New York City?
DC: Thatís a hard question to gauge. Broadway hits generally get mass media attention, Off-Broadway, if it can get the attention it deserves, has the potential to get extended and garnish media awareness. Off-Off-Broadway tends to run less commercial Ė most shows are only seen by a few hundred people at most and a lot of the time producers tend to lose money on their shows. Itís a niche collective; a lot of it is limited enterprise. Economically itís a broken business model. On the up side, it creates great opportunity for writers, producers and actors to showcase work that wouldnít otherwise have a venue. Once in a great while, when the stars align, a rare gem emerges from the ranks. Because of Off-Off-Broadway, a unique project has potential to move to the next level, so back to my original statement, itís really difficult to gauge.
R: Since the economic downturn, have you seen a spike or decline in the amount of listings coming into TONY?
DC: No. In fact it has been pretty consistent throughout. There are still more press releases than we can print. People are still spending money on theatre. Unfortunately there are still theatre venues closing. Sadly, on Ludlow Street there are more boutiques with handbags in the windows, and bars, than performances.
R: In regards to marketing an Off-Off-Broadway show, how effective is listing a show in TONY?
DC [laughs]: Iím told it helps. With the OOB listings weíre trying with the redesign to make it easier for the reader to decide, so hopefully it will help draw theatregoers to something special.
R: I know TONY reviews OOB productions. How does your staff determine which shows are reviewed?
DC: A lot of factors. Track record: there may be a piece from a playwright that we previously enjoyed before. Venue: there may be a theatre that continuously puts out something new and innovative, so it tends to grab our attention. Press Kits: these are important. We want something that grabs our attention, maybe is humorous, unique or has clarity. I canít begin to tell you how many press kits we receive that have grammar mistakes, dates that are clearly incorrect. If the press kit is riddled with grammatical errors that is a reflection on the show; if the press kit is a mess that thereís a good chance the show is too. Originality: we are looking for things that havenít been done before. Thereís a good chance that if it is a unique enough show, we will highlight it to draw our readers to it.
R: How can a show with no budget get a listing in TONY?
DC: We look for a number of things. Sometimes if there is a standout we may have one of our writers do a full piece on the show. Good art is another. Cleverly shot photographs are a shoe-in. Photos are an inexpensive way to capture our attention. If you have an interesting, well-taken photo, why wouldnít we want to list you?
DID YOU KNOW? If your show doesnít make the print magazine donít fret. There are more listings online at www.newyork.timeout.com/arts-culture/theatre.