For many years, professionals have been pleading artists to stop creating run-of-the-mill theatre companies. The market is over-saturated already, and audience bases are shrinking. In the Washington, DC area alone, there are more than 80 professional theatre organizations, the majority of which are nonprofits with a September to May season and a steady mix of straight plays and musicals. The DC theatre scene is one of the reddest oceans in the east coast arts realm. However, one organization has created a blue ocean by placing value not in production value but in its audience members.
dog & pony dc is an ensemble theatre founded in 2008. Three staff members at one of DC's largest incumbent theatre companies - The Shakespeare Theatre - decided to break the traditional theatre mold and create a company that would "up-end the way theatre is made and consumed." (dog & pony dc, 2014) Instead of presenting works on a stage in front of an audience, dog & pony dc explores the idea of audience integration, or "the engagement of audience in the narrative or experiential arc of a performance." (dog & pony dc, 2014) While most theatre performances exist in a vacuum - that is, they would remain unchanged with or without an audience - dog & pony dc productions cannot even occur without an audience. This value pioneering elevated dog & pony dc and eliminated competition.
In addition, dog & pony dc created a completely different model for personnel, preferring the freedom of a "flat" organization over the conventional departments seen in most other area theatres. This also allowed the company to forgo typical major production costs (set design, costumes, building maintenance) in favor of minimalist shows, thus lowering the ticket price significantly. With a lower ticket price, more patrons are able to attend, which feeds dog & pony dc's need for audience integration.
Six years later, dog & pony dc is still the only organization of its kind in Washington, DC, and quadrupled its growth in the last two years.
dog & pony dc. Accessed April 15, 2014. www.dogandponydc.com
Kim, W. Chan, Renee Mauborgne. "Blue Ocean Strategy." Harvard Business Review. October 2004. Accessed April 12, 2014.
Novick, Rebecca. "Please, Don't Start a Theatre Company!" GIA Reader. Spring 2011: Volume 22, No. 1. Accessed April 13, 2014.