Philly introduces theater app

Although audiences are usually required to turn off their cellphones when entering the theater, Off Broad Street Theater Consortium is embracing the technology by releasing the Off Broad Street Mobile App.

“It started as a seed idea almost a year ago and we were reaching out to people in the local community we thought might be interested in apps,” said Melissa Rodis, the managing director for BRAT Productions. “We were surprised by how few mobile apps [for theater] were out there so we were like, ‘Let’s do it.’”

Off Broad Street Theater Consortium is a collaboration between seven theater companies in Philadelphia. The consortium includes 11th Hour, Azuka, BRAT Productions, EgoPo, Flashpoint, Inis Nua and Mauckingbird theater companies.

The app debuted at an official release party, titled “Appy Hour,” at The Corner Foodery on Sept. 6, where visitors could meet professionals from all seven theater companies in Off Broad Street and download the app.

“All of these [theater] companies are so alternative,” said Max Vasopoli, the marketing director for Off Broad Street. “It’s been kind of a test to look at each company individually and market them in the way they’ve kind of built up their marketing. All of these companies are about the same size, have a lot of the same type of audience but at the same time [produce different kinds of work].”

Vasopoli was brought on to the project last year to oversee the development of the app and take recommendations from other theater organizations on potential developers.

“I’ve been working on the app, from the design of the app to the functionality, social media aspects of it and the nitty gritty of information being put out,” Vasopoli said.

To ensure each theater company had a say in the development of the app, each had a representative consult Vasopoli with what they would like to see in the app.

“A lot of these [theater] companies are medium to small-sized, so a lot of them don’t have a specific marketing person or publicist,” Vasopoli said.

Vasopoli added that before the app’s official release, 15 different people from the seven theater companies had looked at it to make sure it met their needs.

“For me, it was really important to have a calendar and map so that someone coming into Philly that didn’t have access to insider information about the smaller [theater] companies in Philly could download this up, pull it up and see what dates they were looking to see a show, and all of our [theater] companies to be represented,” said Allison Heishman, the artistic associate at Azuka Theatre. “We don’t have a lot of overlap between the seven [theater] companies, which is fantastic, so one week you might be able to see a show at Azuka and the next month at Inis Nua. There’s that nice distribution, so that calendar was really important to me. Then the map was interesting because you can take whatever neighborhood you’re in – we’re pretty spread out around the city – so you can pull up the location [of nearby shows].”

In addition to maps and calendars, the app also includes reviews, media galleries to view photos and videos, links to each theater company’s website and social media, the ability to purchase tickets and post about shows via Facebook and Twitter. In addition, the app will also send notifications and give exclusive offers.

“What’s great about an app is that you can change it within minutes, so that if there’s something that happens like a show gets a nomination or a great review, then we [can update the app] within minutes to reflect that,” Vasopoli said. “Being right in their hand [on a screen] is much more effective than a postcard or poster.”

The Off Broad Street app is available for free on iPhones and Android devices.

Luis Fernando Rodriguez can be reached at luis.fernando@temple.edu or on Twitter @theluisfernando.
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