Strategic marketing in mission-centric arts organizations: A case study on framing staged musical works in Higher Education contexts
Clark, Rebecca Ballinger
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“Art is communication.” By analogy, training professional arts administrators entails teaching communication. This dissertation investigates a real-world professional problem: the challenges and opportunities inherent in the communicative art of staging musical works – specifically opera and musical theater – within the environment of a Christian higher-education institution or other mission-centric performing arts organization. As a medium for discussing or presenting social and political issues, staged musical works can dramatize challenging social issues – with or without a Christian lens. Controversy in staged musical works is no new trend. From the premieres of Strauss’ Salome (1905) and Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring (1913), to Avenue Q (2003) and its songs of pornography and the sexual awakening of adolescents in Spring Awakening (2006), staged musical works often challenge communities’ social norms. Laurence Malson suggests that it is the narrative spine of the musical [work] that gives it such communicative power: “from the epic Kern-Hammerstein Show Boat and its view of race relations (1927) to Oklahoma! (1943) through West Side Story (1957), Hair and its antiwar sentiments (1967), Company (1970), and Rent (1996), the themes of prominent Broadway musicals [have] reflected the controversial, revolutionary, and nostalgic issues of an evolving American culture.” The reception of this controversial material becomes increasingly complicated when the worldview of the audience risks conflict with the content of such works. In the case of Oklahoma Baptist University, the doctrines of the Southern Baptist Church and the worldview of the surrounding community make it even more essential that strategic marketing provide audiences opportunities to learn about and engage with a work prior to attending a performance, and thereby increase their ability to form positive aesthetic reactions. This document outlines a unified strategic marketing plan for the Warren M. Angell College of Fine Arts: a plan which proactively addresses controversial topics through the integration of audience engagement and education. Based in this real-world and specific case study, this document articulates a comprehensive strategy for general communication and advertising, promotional materials, director’s statements, pre-production lectures, post-production talk back sessions, and a crisis management plan for any fully staged musical work at Oklahoma Baptist University—including those which may be perceived as controversial. The document argues that unified outreach preceding a production can minimize potential negative responses, facilitating thoughtful reception and, while providing necessary strategies for implementation of crisis management plans, centralizes the strengthening of community relationships and audience growth.Embargo status: Restricted until 06/2022. To request the author grant access, click on the PDF link to the left.
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