Understanding The Emotions Of Musicals Could Form The Future Of Broadway Shows


It's the curious nature of our species that will always ask 'what can we do with this kind of knowledge?'

The latest example of this is a project that we're very excited about being involved with, which ismeasuring the emotional engagement of productions in the musical theatre industry.

Anthony Francavilla and Zachary Laks started Form Theatricals, in New York, 2 and a half years ago to bring a scalable, repeatable and sustainable growth framework to the arts. They've taken a page from startups and are applying a framework that allows companies to test their business models and scale them in a low-risk and low-cost manner.

Image courtesy of www.broadwayworld.com

And their aim?

To build the theater companies of the 21st century. And they're using Sensum to help do this.

According to Anthony and Zach Broadway could be called a 'Mom & Pop' industry, in so much that it's a small number of folks that create the productions, and they're generally made in a vacuum, away from the audiences that they hope to attract. The 2 most successful musicals of all timePhantom & Lion King are not only successful on stage, they are 2 of the most successful entertainment properties in the world. As the guys say "There has to be some science behind this to see why it has this reach and no-one is looking at this space scientifically, and that's where we at Form step in. You can spend all of this money, and not until opening night do you find you've made a mistake and then it's too late to change" says Anthony.

With it costing tens of thousands of dollars to get a reading of your musical in front of an audience, hoping that the 'industry' turn up to see it to take it forward for production funding, this is an expensive way of getting musicals in front of folks to try them out.

But that's not the end of the large spend without audience testing, with your average Broadway musical costing $7-10 million, and how much audience testing has gone into that before opening night?

"We want to make the industry more agile and to take chances for less money at each stage. Our aim is to transpose the concepts of agile software development to theatre production," says Zach.

Anthony and Zach are the first people in the industry doing this kind of market assessment work to look at how to develop a piece around an audience and to really understand what this means.

And this is where Sensum comes in. The guys contacted us to ask about using the platform in their research, and it really excited us, so from now until the end of 2014 Form Theatricals will be testing the rapid development process with a number of musicals, trying out concepts in front of live audiences, and at a conscious & sub-conscious level measuring the effectiveness of the productions.

With the findings the writer then has a short period of time to do a re-write, followed by a further reading to see if it has become more engaging, and whether new findings come from the audience responses, for decision making at both a creative and structural level.

This may just be the beginning of a new age in theatre where the writers, producers, actors, and financiers embrace understanding the emotional patterns of great story-telling to truly engage with their audiences.