Taking a closer look at Madison theater
Aug 1, 2014
04:00 PMStage Write
Exit Interview: MTM's Meghan Randolph Looks for the Hook
PHOTO COURTESY OF MEGHAN RANDOLPH
2014 helped Randolph figure out how best to market her company's shows. “Is there a hook? Can I sell it somehow? That’s where the creative marketing comes in.”
Pro sports teams do it, just like many theater companies do: At the end of a season, they sit down and talk to their players/actors to debrief, take a pulse and gauge where they are and where they’re going. Music Theatre of Madison (MTM) just closed the doors on its tuneful 2014 season, so we asked Meghan Randolph, MTM’s artistic director and driving creative force, to tell us what worked, what she learned and what, if anything, she’d do differently given a time machine and a stack of Stage Write posts.
Things kicked off in the chilly dead of winter with Hostage Song, an affecting musical about a man and a woman who fall in love after being kidnapped by unidentified Middle Eastern terrorists. In spring, it was the original show You’re the Flop, a love letter to underappreciated Broadway bombs that Randolph co-wrote with Catie O’Donnell and Robby Sandler. And just last week, everything was going great gangsters in the Bartell Theatre as MTM’s run of Bonnie & Clyde came to a rousing close.
What Went Well
Randolph founded and has guided MTM on the idea of staging unusual and challenging shows, and the company’s just-completed docket definitely fits that description.
“We took a lot of artistic risks, especially with the first two shows,” says Randolph, referencing Hostage Song and You’re the Flop.
Better yet, she also finally had some help.
“In the last few years, I was doing absolutely everything myself,” she says. “I’m still doing more than I would like to, but I now have an outstanding team of people who can just do their thing.”
What Did You Learn?
“I’m not doing a winter show anytime soon,” says Randolph. Although she considers it a success, Hostage Song ran in the tiny Frequency space on Main Street for a mere four days—four days that happened to fall smack in the middle of the season’s coldest snap.
“It was so cold, and such a dark show,” she says. “Not exactly the greatest combination.”
Gimme a Do-Over
Randolph put a lot of effort and love into You’re the Flop, and it showed—the show was sweet, funny and clever. It also proved to be just a little too niche.
“I don’t think You’re the Flop excited people in the way we thought it would,” says Randolph. “It excited a narrow audience—the hardcore theater geeks—but it reminded me that we need to be open to reaching a broader audience.”
In retrospect, Randolph says she probably would have run the show for only a single weekend, and perhaps found a different way to sell it to potential audiences, who may have stayed away, thinking the show was actually an evening of bad music. The experience has shifted the way she’ll look at future seasons.
“Is there a hook? Can I sell it somehow? That’s where the creative marketing comes in,” she says. “There are tons of lesser-known musical I’d like to do, but I don’t know how to sell them.”
But she’s learning, as evidenced by the creative public-appearance previews she used to drum up additional interest in Bonnie & Clyde. And while not every show lends itself to stars singing showtunes on the Capitol Square, Randolph’s open to doing whatever she can. For now, she’ll be turning her attention to the 2015 docket, in which not a single MTM show will be performed in a proper theater. Instead, expect shows at venues like the Goodman Center, where Randolph plans to pair performances with an art exhibit.