Dallas — It's no secret that media coverage of the arts continues to decline. TheaterJones is leading the charge, and we're looking for your help to keep it thriving.
And by "help," we mean attend a bad-ass party.
The Bruce and Burlesque Bash at Viva's Lounge in the Dallas Design District will feature some of the area's best burlesque talent, plus the one-act play Lenny Bruce is Back, in which Joey Folsom plays the legendary comic.
Lenny Bruce is Back is produced by Bren Rapp, the sales and marketing director of TheaterJones, and Folsom is performing this show at several local venues, beginning Aug. 4 and 5 at the Dallas Comedy Club, before taking it on a tour of venues in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. You can read more about the performances and tour here.
As previously reported, there will also be two performances on Friday, Aug. 11 at Viva's Lounge, a burlesque hotspot. At each performance, 8 p.m. and 11 p.m., the play will be preceded by a performance from burlesque goddess Vivienne Vermuth.
The 11 p.m. performance, at which table seating and general admission tickets are available, will be the TheaterJones benefit, followed by an after-party featuring more burlesque. You might even see some of the TheaterJones staff in, uh, performance.
To purchase tickets to the 11 p.m. Bruce and Burlesque Bash, go here. Be sure and use the dropdown to select the 11 p.m. performance, which will be followed by the afterparty, and will have some giveaways and more bitchin' performances.
Although the two are just getting started as business partners, one thing that is very apparent about the collaboration between local stage/film actor Joey Folsom and producer/entertainment marketer Bren Rapp is that they have tossed the “way it has always been done” rulebook out the window. With their inaugural undertaking, the multi-market tour of Julie Stein and Sam Bobrick's Lenny Bruce is Back, aside from simply producing a one man show, the two decided to experiment with a novel approach of using the crossover appeal of the material to take the production into nontraditional venues (comedy and burlesque houses) to address two major concerns they agreed seemed to be at the forefront of the Dallas theatre community; the shortage of affordable venues and attracting new, younger and more diverse audiences to live theatre. The duo has decided to add one more concern to that list—the dwindling state of affairs that constitutes arts journalism in the city.
In the past two years, the area’s mainstream media outlets have decimated arts coverage, especially reviews of performing arts. That trend is only getting worse as the click-bait culture rises, and as arts reviews and stories don't generate the same number of clicks/page views as sports, politics, etc.
"Most of the print publications in town that used to review the arts have cut back, or entirely cut, arts coverage. Mark my words, you can expect diminishing coverage coming from the two daily newspapers in Dallas-Fort Worth, too," says TheaterJones editor Mark Lowry. "It really is dire that a vibrant arts scene has reliable coverage. TheaterJones does that, and we need more support."
In an effort to call further attention to the issue and to address the need on the part of the arts community to proactively challenge the trend, the two are donating 50 percent of the reserved seating ticket sales from a performance of their show directly to TheaterJones, a leading arts media outlet for North Texas. It is a move that Rapp sites as giving voice to what many artists and organizations know to be true but rarely champion. “No one wants to seem like they are pandering to the media that covers them but the fact of the matter is, especially for individual artists and small to midsize organizations out there, arts coverage is crucial in getting work seen and driving revenue, regardless of the discipline,” says Rapp. “In return, the work of local artists drives the content that helps keep arts journalists employed. It is a symbiosis that while somewhat adversarial is crucial to a thriving local arts scene.”
"Decreasing coverage and competing for reviews have been regular topics of conversation in the community for some time now," adds Folsom "coverage of art is essential for the success of the work being done in the community. Most arts organizations don't have the funding to buy advertising, that's where media coverage becomes essential to their success. If people don't know it's happening, they won't go see it. If Dallas is ever going to be considered a real arts and culture destination, there has to be support for our media outlets as well as the artists.”
Rapp adds, "In the age of crowdfunding it is a common practice with artistic and entertainment endeavors for the community of creators and those served (their audience) to financially support the development of work on an individual level, independent of an organizational structure, because it is understood there is mutual interest and benefit. There is power given to the individual in the model. I don’t see a distinction when it comes to the need for the arts to be covered by the media and the obligation of the artists themselves to assist in making that possible. That is what this effort is all about. Giving the community an opportunity to do something to directly support arts coverage. Journalists have been helping us sell tickets since the dawn of newsprint.”
Folsom and Rapp believe the market itself is sophisticated enough not only to understand that financial support does not constitute “buying favorable coverage” but that it is the type of artistic community that demands and respects objectivity and unbiased coverage. “As artists we can and should do something to support arts journalism. We should be their advocates, just as journalists have been for us,” notes Folsom.
The two chose TheaterJones as the benefactor for their efforts because of the multiple disciplines consistently covered (theater, dance, classical music, opera, comedy), the publication’s dedication to employing and continuing to pay a full roster of skilled journalists and their efforts and reach in canvasing the whole of the Metroplex geographically. Rapp, who has served as TheaterJones’ Director of Sales and Marketing for over two years is taking it even a step further by continuing to assist TJ in sales and marketing efforts but doing so forgoing a commission or payment beginning this August. “I get the score, I get the shot and I see where things are headed for the artistic community as a whole because of the decline in journalism. My goal is to be part of the solution, not to simply further diagnose the problem.”
“TheaterJones is continuing to cover the arts like no one else, and we have plans to keep going," says Lowry, "but it takes money for that to happen. We are grateful for this benefit to help us build our future.”
Purchase tickets to the Bruce and Burlesque Bash here. Make sure it's the 11 p.m. performance. Remember that TheaterJones gets 50 percent of the reserved seating, so don't wait and buy a ticket at the door.