Wednesday, November 22, 2006

First-Ever Reader Survey Results!

Posted by Followspot November 22, 2006.

Check out the comments section for a complete run-down of responses to the first-ever Followspot reader survey. While the demographics aren’t that surprising (including the lack of general audience members among the readership), some of the more interesting perspectives are found in the open-ended comments. Let’s take a look-see …


Follow Spot said...

OK, everyone, here are the results of the first-ever Followspot reader survey. Grab a cup of coffee; this could take a while. Any personal comments or responses from me appear in italics.

As a point of reference, Web stats (and we all know how reliable they are) show an average of 150-200 visitors to the site per day. My anecdotal impression of the Portland theatre e-mail universe is in the 600-800 realm, though that may also include organizations as well as individuals.

This survey collected information from 70 participants.

1. What is your Zip Code?
No answer: 4
12831 1 Gansevoort, New York
60626 1 Chicago
90026 1 Los Angeles
94109 1 San Francisco
97005 1 Beaverton
97008 1 Beaverton
97024 1 Fairview
97034 1 Lake Oswego
97070 1 Wilsonville
97133 1 North Plains
97201 1 Portland
97202 8 Portland
97203 1 Portland
97205 1 Portland
97206 3 Portland
97209 1 Portland
97210 1 Portland
97211 3 Portland
97212 7 Portland
97213 1 Portland
97214 8 Portland
97215 5 Portland
97217 2 Portland
97218 1 Portland
97219 1 Portland
97222 1 Portland
97225 1 Portland
97229 2 Portland
97231 2 Portland
97232 4 Portland
97236 1 Portland
Italy 1 Italy

2. How do you identify?
No answer: 1
51% Male
49% Female

3. What is your age?
No answer: 1
02.9% 18 years and under
14.5% 19-26 years
40.6% 27-35 years
24.6% 36-45 years
13.0% 46-55 years
04.3% 56-65 years
00.0% 66 years and older

4. Which of the following best describes you? (choose one)
No answer: 1
89.9% Active member of the industry (this does not necessarily mean full-time, but that you have worked on at least one production in some capacity over, say, the past 12 months)
02.9% Current student of theatre arts or related field
02.9% Audience member only (I do not work in the industry and never have)
01.4% Audience member now but used to work in the industry
01.4% Educator (who primarily works within your educational institution, but may occasionally work at local theatres)
01.4% Other

5. If you study theatre or work in the industry, which of the following apply to you? (check all that apply)
No answer: 2
76.5% Performer (all types)
29.4% Stage Director or Choreographer or similar
27.9% Administrator (including marketing, box office, FOH, etc.)
25.0% Artistic Director or other organizational leader
23.5% Educator
22.1% Playwright, Dramaturg or other literary position
20.6% Stage Manager, Technician, Crew or Production
14.7% Designer (all types)
02.9% Media, Critics and related

6. How often do you visit the Followspot blog?
No answer: 15
03.6% Rarely - less than once per month
12.7% Occasionally - more than once a month
30.9% Regularly - maybe once a week or so
14.5% Frequently - more than once a week
23.6% Often - maybe like once a day or so, give or take
14.5% Obsessively - at least once a day

7. In the ongoing debate over anonymous posts, which best describes your opinion?
No answer: 15
18.2% 100% for anonymous posts
38.2% Favor anonymous posts but wish people would use some sort of name so that I can follow discussions better
21.8% Don't care
18.2% Disfavor anonymous posts, but I don't freak out about it
03.5% 100% against anonymous posts

8. Let's turn the tables and give me your opinion of the blog: What works? What doesn't? Why? Also - what other features would you like to see added to this blog?
No answer: 30

1. i wish the discussions were limited to the show at hand. there are several resources (pata green room, pdxbackstage, vertigo message boards et, al) for ongoing discussions. this does not seem to be the place for that. Perhaps a 50 word limit on responses?

Although the 50-word limit on responses isn’t really practical for me to implement, I do agree that comments should focus on the show (or theater criticism-related topic) at hand.

2. This is my first time to see this blog. I intend to visit regulary from now on.

3. i'm new to the site, so am just getting acquainted with it.

4. The mechanics of the blog are jsust fine. It would be cool if there was a little blog monkey who could seperate out the negative criticism from the constructive, so that I could choose to read only that which I wanted. For the most part, I assume that the main people looking at this are theater people, but on the occasion that someone uses this for insight into the theater, some of these discussions sure portray us theatre folk as jerks.

I appreciate the sentiment and will continue to monitor comments as best I can.

5. The 50-word-increment thing never really worked for me. It seems rather limiting -- more of a gimmick than anything else. I've also noticed that the blog tends to skip over Portland Actors Ensemble (Shakespeare-in-the-Parks) productions. Too bad, as those shows are among the most popular theater events in Portland. Can't think of anything to add to the blog, although the interviews are a nice touch. I'm planning to move in the fairly near future, so I've got things besides Portland theater on my mind.

My 50-word fetish does two things for me: focus on the bottom line (admittedly missing nuance) while keeping posts manageable. Thankfully, other readers flesh things out from time to time. And hopefully with the help of Frenchglen, the blog will be able to cover PAE Shakespeare next summer.

6. The snippy and sniping and down right mean comments are a real turn off. And some people really step over the line and are just writing to hear themselves talk. It makes the blog loose credibility and is boring.

I agree with this and other similar feedback. And after the recent “Coming and Going” meltdown, I resolve to offer closer moderation of comments that stray from the show. As always, that will be a judgment call.

7. I wish people were more constructive with their criticism. While I appreciate the thoughtful opinion of other bloggers, its hard to differentiate between those who actually want to have a discussion and those who just want to bash productions.

8. What works: reviews facilitate discussion as opposed to squashing hard work of dedicated artists. What doesn't work: only having two reviewers severely limits the scope of literary and theatrical criticism. Why not five or six?

That’s what open comments are for; everyone gets to be a reviewer.

9. I think the blog works best when the 50 word limit forces conciseness; less so when it enables ambiguity. I like the profiles of individuals; profiles of companies might be nice, too.

10. More information about the show you're reviewing like dates, location, etc. Sometimes a review is posted and the show's about to close, but the review doesn't contain any of that information. Also, I think you should get out of you safty zone a bit and see some more diverse performance. Maybe some *gasp* dance! There's great work going on in town that is technically "dance" but would appeal to theatre goers. Have you seen Cabaret Boris and Natasha or Monster Squad? I think this artistic community would benefit from being exposed to dance and be surprised at the variety that's out there. Also, what about opera?

I understand what you’re saying, but I’m not interested in creating another calendar of events. I do note closing date of the production, but you can find all the other details by following the theatre’s link included with each post. Likewise, Followspot’s focus is theatre, not dance. Someone else is gonna have to start a dance blog or an opera blog – maybe you?

11. I love this blog, have for years, have found myself in agreement even when FSB review is negative about my own work. Integrity, intelligence. Some good thinkers/strong writers respond to the reviews, and some really funny/clever folk as well. I appreciate the irreverance as much as the serious. I sometimes wish more people would respond ~ I, for one, very rarely do simply because I don't have time (or someone's already better stated my point.) Other features? How about an anonymous Drammy competition where the results are not posted until after the Drammy ceremony? A sort of People's Choice awards. Just thinking of fun stuff. In all I appreciate the positive tone of the FSB, helping to unify/promote/celebrate the Pdx theatre community.

12. Just great that there is dialog!

13. Hey there Followspot, thanks for giving us this opportunity. Your blog space is an awesome outlet for folks to vent, critique and gain insight in the development of the Portland Theatre Scene. I like the idea of anonimity, I do not like the disrespect folks have for individuals because of the anonimity.

14. The original idea - the 50-word review - is what really works for me. I think the brevity (and of course your own intelligence) allows you to take us to the heart of matter and let our imaginations go.

15. I'd like it if you could elaborate more on the shows (take off the world count) and have other reviews such as reviews from The Oregonian or other news papers.

I did try at one time to post clips and links to reviews from other media so as to perhaps be a one-stop theater review locale, but interestingly enough, most readers didn’t care. However, may I point out that PATA provides a similar service in its “News” section, posting links to most if not all local media coverage concerning theater. Go to and click on “News”.

16. What I enjoy most is the use of the short reviews as jumping off points for fuller discussion.

17. I like the 50 word reviews. Good information on most shows. Helps me figure out what I want to see or not. I like the comments, but wish some would stick to the show subject and not be so petty.

18. It would never occur to me to make any demands of someone's pet project. I think this is a wonderful public service that people unfortunately take for granted. I mean, the only thing is that, in order to follow specific converstations, is that a message board rather than posts where people could start their own threads and have the same kind of free-flowing conversation might cut down on the annoyance some of us feel when having to scan through 90 posts of bickering to see if any actual criticism related to the SHOW has been posted. Particularly for posts that contain a list of shows you won't be seeing, like the recent "Coming and Going."

Good point about a message board – and may I recommend Theatre Vertigo’s board or PDXBackstage for longer discussions of other topics?

19. I think -- other than the fact that not enough shows get covered -- the blog, in itself,
is just fine. It's some of the people that comment who don't behave themselves. But you have little or no control over that, other than the occasional warning or admonition.

Well, at least the first concern – more shows being covered – is being addressed with the addition of Frenchglen’s reviews.

20. i have really enjoyed (thus far) the format of the blog, and (though it devolved into some random namecalling and pettiness, i like having a forum for show discussions). i know that in the past my company has really appreciated the feedback (one particular show's feedback still makes us giggle a little). like i say above, i disfavor anonyposts, but i think it's the nature of the beast. i usually feel like if i have something to say, i wanna put my name to it. but i don't think there should be a requirement or any such thing...not that you suggested that...i'm just saying...

I’m dying to know which one still makes you giggle….

21. What works: it's a forum for actors and others within the industry (as well as audience) to post their comments and opinions on local productions. More information is always better than less. What doesn't work: using specific show posts to open dialogue on broader subjects, which might be better discussed on another forum or perhaps a separate string. When I click on a show to read those comments I expect to see comments about that show, not about the climate in general or petty arguments on whether or not to include your name. Some of us have day jobs and don't have the time to scroll through 98 comments to find comments on the shows.

22. Gosh -- great blog, love discussions, reviews, bio articles. Improvements? Hmmm mmmm, just wish you could see all the shows, and earlier in their runs so that threads/responses could happen always. (I notice, when you review the last weekend, not many people bother to add comment.) Maybe limit responses to 50 words also?

23. More gossip!

24. Hey Tim, I love the blog. I find the reviews interesting and I often use them (both yours and other comments) to determine where I might go to see a show when I get a chance! The anonymous posts are all right but I think it gives too many people the opportunity to make a statement (many times related to peronal problems/bias) and hide behind the anonymity (sp?). I like your interviews and I don't know that there is anything else you could add that would make me more interested......keep up the great work! I know I really appreciate it!

25. I admire this blog. It is a fantastic (and needed) source and meeting ground for the Portland theatre community.

26. I really like the features you do on people in the industry. They are well done and always intriguing. (it's my secret wish to be profiled someday...) I take issue with the petty postings, butrealize you have no control over those.

I’m hoping to bring the profile series back soon; send nominations (even self-nominations) to

27. no personal debates. just opinions about theatre.

28. It would be nice if there were some sort of filter to keep the posts' topic to strictly commenting on the shows, as opposed to arguing with people about past posts, commenting on other people's critiques, or talking about Neal Starbird's pants.

29. 100% coverage of all shows

30. My only quarrel is shows that are long over taking up space. Other than taht - insightful and fun! Added features: Maybe season listings?

31. I like the self-imposed 50 word limit, but I sometimes feel that the verbal gymnastics required by that limitation can muddy the content of the review. Otherwise, I love it... I won't follow conversations beyond about 20 posts or so, as they tend to devolve after that. That has nothing to do with blog structure, though... just the nature of internet Trolls :) I'm sure that your personal responsibilities can sometimes get in the way of Followspotting; I'd suggest recruiting a group of "guest reviewers" whose opinions you trust to be a review team; that would allow you more breathing room and give the blog more "official followspot reviews" that can be supplimented by user comments.

32. Pretty happy, as is. Simple, easy to follow.

33. Sometimes 50 words isn't quite enough, but usually it is enough to give a general impression... and I usually agree with that impression.

34. it wuld be fun if people would identify themselves by role eg: actor/driector, designer, audience member.

35. Love the interviews, love the reviews, even tho sometimes I'm not quite sure what you're saying.

36. It drives me crazy when some show sparks a tangential discussion that lasts around 50+ postings. I'd much rather read a larger number of postings for each show, than only see 1 or two for a show that is really good. Nothing Followspot can do about that.

37. I'm pretty new to the blog, but i think it's fabulous to finally have this type of forum!

38. I'd love to see more minor productions reviewed, perhaps by guest reviewers.

39. I like the idea of multiple posters/critics. It would be nice to have a greater array of productions covered. And I would love if it extended to the dance & PICA world more, not just the theatre scene.

40. More venues for discussion - perhaps a weekly listing of shows that are opening, so we can discuss them even before you see them.


9. "Outstanding theatre so effectively conveys the artists' intentions that it provokes audiences to feel, think, respond. It's a sum greater than its parts; an event that transfixes, transports, transforms. It’s as meaningful as entertaining, and eminently superior to its contemporaries in quality of craft, depth of thought, breadth of imagination." That's Followspot's personal definition of "outstanding." What's yours?
31 people skipped this question

1. My definition is longer winded and less succinct then yours, and I can't find fault with what you are saying.

2. I agree.....see #10

3. similar -- I have always felt that a theatre experience which produces some ongoing in-depth discussion after the fact about the meaning of the piece is a better than average theatre.

4. "Theatre that is better than the stories my mom told to me as a kid. A tale with images so vividly imagined, that I can't imagine seeing anything better." That's outstanding!

5. "I know it when I see it." For me, it's intuitive rather than intellectual. I'm an artist, not an academic.

6. I agree with the above comment.

7. Outstanding theatre challenges our notions of what is possible, both for ourselves and our society, even when the vehicle is a mere entertainment; it inspires hope, and causes wonder, even if only for a moment, in the hearts of the viewers/participants.

8. Outstanding theatre is seamless, immersive storytelling at its most compelling.

9. Golly that covers it all, FS.

10. Leaving the theater glad that you went.

11. You have pretty much summed up what most individuals dream in becoming as a part of theatre. Outstanding theatre only exists as opinion from onlookers, but exists in the company when collaboration and effort coincide.

12. When the artists involved are truly passionate about the work they do, you can see them learn, feel, and grow before your very eyes. When they truly care about what they are doing and what it means to them and those around them, I find that truly outstanding, even if the end result of the show may be a failure.

13. all of the above.

14. Outstanding criticism honors the individual accomplishments of the artist while both challenging and championing the further development of the art.

15. Can't say I can top that one. But I can say that to me outstanding theatre is one that leaves you wishing there could have been more.

16. I think followspot has provided an excellent definition.

17. That's pretty close. Except that I'm not certain that outstanding theater ONLY conveys the artists' intentions. Sometimes -- no, quite often -- great work in ANY field (writing, painting, acting, dance, whatever) somehow, magically, transcends even the creators' intentions.

18. that pretty much sums it up. i like the transfix/port/forms comment best. but i think too, "outstanding" is bandied about far too readily. i like this definition of it, but don't think many hold "outstanding" to such a high degree...

19. Put simply, a performance or show that's "outstanding" is one that comes to mind when I think of great theatre experiences; memorable, one of the very best few. Something that appeals to and evokes emotional response from a broad range of audience demographic.

20. I forget I'm watching a play.

21. I'm no dictionary, but "outstanding theatre," to me: surprises me with plot twists, character relevations; encourages a new way of thinking; is performed with honesty and courage; sweeps me away; makes me care about something or someone.

22. You pretty much said it. I find (after working 25+ years in the arena) that I am extremely critical of all aspects. When a theatre moment (or entire piece) can take me out of the critique and into the "transfix/transport/transform" phase you mention, it's an "outstanding" piece of art. It doesn't happen very often, but (as you well know) when it does, it's AMAZING!

23. Taking the material at hand to a level greater than the sum of it's parts.

24. good theatre is like good food, you feel better after.

25. Outstanding theatre is theatre that sets itself apart from the norm in some way-- whether that be superior quality of one or more of its parts or innovation that makes one stand up and take notice.

26. to be transported

27. Works for me.

28. Dude!!! You didn't say there would be HARD questions!!! :) I would agree with your definition, but simplify it for myself to say "Outstanding theatre transports the audience to another place and/or time, causing that audience to forget the world they came from, and moves said audience intellectually and emotionally. All elements of the production come into play towards these ends."

29. 1. Done for someone other than the artist's (performer's or director's, or designer's) gratification 1. Unity of vision -- everyone working on the same page 3. Thought through, on every level,to the details 4. A level of technical expertise (in EVERY aspect, designer and performer) that is simply not possible without experience and constant, mindful honing of one's skills 5. Utilizing what makes theatre unique: its ephemeral nature, the way it exists only in the presence of an audience 6. Work that could not have been better if done in a different medium (radio, film, television) -- work that is, and can only be, realized on stage

30. That about does it. Although sometimes I think that entertainment is entertainment for entertainment's sake, and that's good by me. Not everything has to have a higher purpose.

31. My test for "outstanding" theatre is how many days after the show is it still on my mind? I've seen great shows that stick with me for weeks after I see the performance, but all too often I forget about shows as soon as I leave the theatre.

32. Outstanding theatre is pure magic.

33. I couldn't have said it better, oh right, I didn't.

34. Theatre is both ancient and modern. It helps us to realize that much of what we think of as new, is old. It is a sacred trust: The audience trusts the artists to provide us with insights, the artists trust the audience to learn from the experience and, in some way, to reward the artists.

35. An event that cracks my impenetrable wall of cynicism and despair at the state of theatre in this town.

36. Good god, who could top that? But I will add that I think outstanding can be many things - including when you see a performer you know take a leap or a risk or achieve a new "best" personal performance. When we give criticism that is mean spirited, I think it diminishes the work we all try to do. I prefer constructive criticism with the intent of helping people to achieve outstanding.

37. Adapted from Toni Cade Bambara: The role of art is to make the revolution irresistable.

38. Outstanding is when I am so transported that I don't think at all until it's done. I laugh out loud, I gasp, I stifle sobs in response. When I cannot figure out how they managed to provoke these responses. When a piece makes my head spin, when I honestly can't tell if someone is acting, when the whole room fills up with expectation. When the silence is so strong that everyone-- audience and performer-- are united. When the performer holds that silence in the palm of their hand. When a production is always two steps ahead of me. When separate elements come together to make something that is truly greater than any of those parts; when magic happens.

39. Oh dear. I'd have to think about that for longer than I have right now.


10. Any parting comments?
35 skipped this question

1. Keep up the good work being in the industry I understand how difficult it is to see "everything"

2. keep up the good work tim,

3. Theater can so transform people that I'd like to see it used more in enhancing wellness and health. The creative arts have been documented to impact people's mental, emotional and physical health in a positive way. Shands Hospital in Florida and Chelsea-Westminster in London have done intensive studies about it.

4. i look forward to visiting this site. thank you.

5. It's pretty cool that you have created this site and as far as the criticism of what you have done; if people don't like it, they should make their own blog, cause it's super easy.

6. Thanks for the review of "Cuckoo's Nest." It might be my last show in Portland.

7. I'd say to keep the blog to the shows and comments about the shows. Personal attacks are boring.

8. Keep up the good work!

9. No.

10. Thanks for the blog -- you do a great job in moderating the (occasionally insane) comments, while still allowing for free flow of opinion.

11. Thank you for your commitment to this project.

12. Thanks for your work!

13. There once was a site "Followspot" which was read in Portland a lot Though we fume and we fuss it's all about us the best and the worst that we've got.

14. Your blog rocks! Thanks for keeping it going and for all the work you do to keep it up. I know it can't be easy.

15. keep up the good work. i would love to see you profile a good stage manager sometime soon.

16. I hope followspot continues to flourish, and a few people either lose their 'tude or just go away.

17. keep up the good work, FS. it's a pleasure to read ya...

18. I am so grateful that this forum exists; thank you!

19. Thanks for the blog!

20. You're awesome.....not only for your willingness to give us your input/review, but for
being open to running this forum for the Portland theatre community!


22. it seems as though followspot is not being used as it was intended. for me, it is a place where i can gather insight into what’s going on with shows about town. the abuses it offers are clear: folks praising their own work, either directly or through the use of cooperative friends; folks using their vengeful energies to strike out at someone they dislike for any number of reasons. on balance though, it seems like a good concept. all this other debate seems so counterproductive and only feeds the writers’ defensive/spiteful/insecure traits -- traits we all share in some degree or another. let’s not choose to feed those sides of ourselves. how about we just have an honest and gentle discussion of what’s going on out there. the attacks and defending remarks are just exhausting. they don’t prove anything except that people have a lot of time and can type. and don’t bother carving some well sharpened arrows aimed at me; save your quiver, i won’t be reading them. i come to this sight to read about theatre, not about how all you all need to excorcise your demons. get a shrink for that. that is not a flip remark. it is a sincere wish. i wish you peace, love, and remember, there’s a war on. all the energy you pour into your keyboard is not helping that in the least. signed, a fellow traveler

23. Nope!

24. i notice you have not reviewed cuckoo's nest. it's been playing for 2 wks and it's not even on your "not going to get to it" list. whassup?
Frenchglen has posted a review, and I hope to see it before it closes as well.

25. Keep up the good work.

26. Thanks so much for your dedication over the years to maintaining this blog and giving us such a great resource and conversation point. I'm often struck by how digitally advanced the Portland Theatre community is, with its various communication streams. Having one more sounding board where we can discuss ideas brings us all together as a community, and makes us stronger by giving us the air to view our differences.

27. Keep up the good work. And if you need, get a handy assistant to help you keep up on the shows. But definitely someone you feel has a brain in their head.

28. keep up the good work!

29. Keep up the good work.

30. Thanks so much for providing the blog. Quite valuable.

31. Thanks for the forum. Love it!

32. Thanks again for all of the work this must take!

33. Gracias!

34. There's nothing you can do about this, but I often find myself wishing the comments
and responses to your posts were more interesting, more discussion-oriented. People seem to want to defend themselves or call each other out or say they agreed or disagreed with you, instead of going deeply into why something did or did not work. And people seem to be so rooted in figuring out who said what, instead of responding to what they said in a meaningful way. Maybe as the audience for your blog grows, the comments will grow in scope as well.

35. Not really.

That’s it! Thank you to all who responded. Lots of great feedback.

some anonymous person said...

Yay to people completing the survey, yay to Followspot for soliciting criticism for the blog in the first place. Super double yay for scrubbing posts that are argumentative for the sake of arguing, or are discussing the dead horse of The Pants (which threatened to overshadow not one but two solid productions of Faust. Us. versions 1 and 2.0) It is nice to see this level of participation from our industry in this forum!