NET/TEN Shareback: Bedlam Theatre & Live Action Set - Marketing: Maps, Buses & Mailboxes!

2012-13 Exchange Grant Recipient

Bedlam Theatre (Minneapolis, MN) and Live Action Set (Minneapolis, MN) presented Bedlam’s annual Ten Minute Play Festival featuring interconnected works to bring audiences and performers into the streets and storefronts of Lowertown St. Paul.


Bedlam Theatre and Live Action Set provided NET with a detailed overview of their marketing and PR strategy for their promenade style performance. The key components consisted a map generated by intern, Alana Horton, and an installation of interactive mailboxes to engage the local community. The text, images, and documents below provide a glimpse into their process.


by Andi Cheney

Creating a promenade style performance with the goal of introducing visitors to the neighborhood while honoring long-time residents required quite a lot of mapping and math. The math came in the lead-up to the The Big Lowdown, when we did a lot of backend walking and timing to make sure that everything would flow well as tour guide Rovers led their audience members around the neighborhood. The mapping took place the night of, when audience members were handed a map of Lowertown that featured both local business and the location of their Rover somewhere in the surrounding blocks. 

The story of how this map came to be encapsulates a lot of the work that went into making The Big Lowdown.

 Click map to download a PDF version

To make a marketing package worthy of The Big Lowdown, Bedlam was fortunate enough to have a brilliant and talented intern* from Macalester College, Alana Horton, who is both a theatre-maker and a graphic designer. She joined the project team early in the process at every production meeting, focusing on advertising, publicity, and the show structure all simultaneously. By combining these viewpoints (rather than plugging in to just the usual publicity channels), Alana was able to make connections between performance themes and opportunities for outreach in a way an outside marketer would not have.

For me, what started to connect was that publicity and outreach to the community could become part of the show itself,” Alana reflects. “From the production meetings, it became clear that we wanted to create a show that 1) would make people interested and invested in the Lowertown neighborhood, 2) make them want to spend time there and explore it after the show was done, and 3) we wanted local businesses to be excited about Bedlam and feel like they were part of The Big Lowdown. We wanted to invite the community into the show, and welcome our audiences into the community.

With this mentality, the project team was immediately enthusiastic about putting advertisements on the local buses, an obvious connection to the transit-hub identity of the Lowertown neighborhood. Alana designed the ads, as well as the postcards and program, all fitting in a lighthearted celebratory theme that encompassed the entire neighborhood wherever possible.

Bus ad designed by Alana Horton

Meanwhile, Alana began to create an installation for the performances themselves called “MAILBOX,” a series of mailboxes set up like a treasure hunt throughout the neighborhood. Each mailbox suggested different activities: one asked people to take a selfie showing how they were feeling at the moment, one invited people to take seeds and plant them, one was full of markers and told people to draw on the mailbox, etc. These were up for the entire performance weekend with messages inside promoting The Big Lowdown, but also adding more street level activity for anyone walking through the neighborhood.

This mailbox features bamboo and yarm with the instructions to tell a story about a happy day to whoever was around, eveni if it was just you, while wrapping the yarn.

This mailbox had permanent markers for tagging, drawing, signing, whatever you wanted. 

This mailbox asked for your secrets.

The role of the map was to bring together all these angles and designs into one cohesive package. The map served as a way to let people know where the mailboxes/treasure hunt locations were to be found, let people know about the opportunities and businesses found in lowertown, and to provide a distinct graphic feel for the show. The map combined three audience goals into one: it gave audiences information about where they needed to go when the show started, gave audiences information about where the Mailboxes were, and gave audience about where to go/eat/play when they were next in Lowertown.

The best thing about the marketing side of the project was that the map has gone on to have a life of its own! Both Bedlam Lowertown and other local businesses continue to use the map for outreach and neighborhood connections. We are delighted that The Big Lowdown lives on!

-Andi Cheney, Bedlam Theatre's Company Manager

*Bedlam paid Alana a stipend for her work and she has since become a regular employee. We're really lucky to have her!



All photos credited to Farrington Starnes and Bedlam Theatre. Map and bus ad designed by Alana Horton.


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Monday, June 9, 2014

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