When I first decided to give acting a try in 2011 – something that had been on my bucket list for quite some time! – I was approached by an audience member after my very first performance. It was the usual post-play chat, lots of people asking questions, bestowing compliments and pats on the back, a boisterous, heady time. In the midst of all the hubbub, I was asked, “How long have you been doing this?” Naturally, received the look of surprise when I explained this was my first true attempt. “Wow, and what do you do when you’re not acting?” “I’m in public relations,” I said. The look of surprise dissolved into one of satisfied perception. “Oh, I see, of course!”
Well, I wasn’t sure I did. But after a moment’s thought, I got it. In PR we all have to be thespians of a type, acting like we are oh, so happy to field a reporter’s call on a weekend, smiling and acting gracious despite a TV producer’s insane demands, staying politically correct with the company's top executives when you really want to shriek, “WHAT? You want to do WHAT? Are you INSANE? Do you want 60 MINUTES on our doorstep??!! AUGGHHHH!”
As the years have passed since—all three of them—I’ve done a few plays, and have even submitted my very first full-length work to the Baltimore Playwrights Festival (http://www.baltplayfest.org/), a non-profit organization that works hard to keep theater alive and kicking in Baltimore. Recently, I sat down with BPF president and Chairman of the Board of Directors, Rodney Bonds – whom I had the great good fortune to perform with in the Fells Point Corner Theater (www.fpct.org)’s 2012 production of Eugene O’Neill’s THE ICEMAN COMETH—to discuss how he keeps BPF “center stage” in local hearts and minds…
What do you do to raise BPF’s profile on a limited budget?
This year we participated in Free Fall Baltimore, and we participate every year in the Kennedy Center's Page to Stage Event on Labor Day. We have, in the past been part of both Annual Baltimore Book Fair and Artscape. We appear in the Dramatist Guild of America's Resource Guide. We try to find creative ways to get our name into the various media outlets in Baltimore and we're always looking for new ways to raise the profile of the BPF.
Does BPF have an active social media presence?
We do, we have a Facebook page, and I'm always sending out "event" notifications via FB. We communicate through Facebook with several other groups, The Playwrights Group of Baltimore, Auditions!, and The Official Playwrights Group of Facebook as well as a number of Theater Groups. We're not yet on twitter or instagram but we'd like to find a young person who would be willing to help us better exploit the benefits of social media.
How do you promote BPF in the Baltimore community?
We send press releases to a large number of media outlets in Baltimore and the surrounding counties. Of course, all of the Board members are ambassadors for the BPF at every theater production we attend. I'm part of the Center Stage's Theater Community Round Table which grew out of the now defunct Baltimore Theater Alliance. Of course, the producing companies also promote the BPF on their websites and in their electronic newsletters.
How do you go about establishing relationships with local theaters and related businesses?
As Chair of the BPF I've met with several of the Board's of Directors of local theaters, in an attempt to spread the word about the BPF and it's mission. We're always looking for theater companies who are interested in producing new works. We are also working towards forging closer relationships with many of the academic institutions in the Baltimore area.
Whom do you see as BPF’s “target audience” and has that changed or is it changing?
It hasn't really changed. Over the last 34 years BPF's "target audience" has always been anyone who is interested in helping us achieve our mission "...to provide an environment that nurtures the talents of Maryland and DC and Virginia playwrights through public readings, discussions, critiques and work-shopping of new plays...[and to present] these newly developed works, for the entertainment and cultural edification of our audiences." We welcome anyone who enjoys watching the development of new plays to join us at our Play Development Workshop Readings in October through March, as well as the Full Staged Productions presented during the Festival's summer season.
What’s next/What’s new with BPF?
As we enter our 34th season, we continue to look for new theaters to join us in our celebration and admiration of new work and our support and nurturing of our local playwrights.