Zach Theater Prepares To Reopen With New Monthly Membership Offer
BroadwayWorld is making contact with theaters nationwide as they prepare to reopen this summer. Next in our series, we meet Zach Theater Marketing and Communications Director Drew Nebrig about their upcoming reopening, their new subscription offering and more.
Drew graduated from Pennsylvania State University with a double degree in music and advertising. A lover of theater, music and the arts, Drew grew up in Dallas, Texas, attending and performing in shows whenever she had the chance. She spent 7 years in New York City as an Account Supervisor at the largest full-service advertising and marketing agency in the live entertainment industry, managing the Wicked, Beautiful the Carole King Musical, Second Stage Theater and Oh Hello. She moved to Austin to join the ZACH Theater team as Director of Marketing and Communications and now oversees an energetic team of marketers focused on brand development, digital and offline advertising, public relations and ZACH partnerships. She values hard work, integrity in everything you do, and always having fun doing it.
What have your theater staff done in the past year?
So many things! We pivoted our in-person education camps and classes to live virtual classes at the start of the pandemic. After producing a few streaming performances, we decided to hold some outdoor concerts with socially remote pod seats in our Songs under the stars concert series that ran from August 2020 through summer 2021. It was obvious to our sold-out crowds that Austin was ready to return to live music.
How has the pandemic affected your business the most?
Like so many arts organizations across the country, we had to shut down our season quickly last year when the pandemic hit. When we realized it wasn’t going to end anytime soon, it resulted in significant loss of earnings, layoffs and time off. We are fortunate to have our People’s Plaza outdoors, which has allowed us to create an outdoor performance space and continue to produce, which has allowed us to keep our small staff employed during the pandemic.
Did you stream theater / events?
We have made some past performances available on our ZACH Now website! as well as a few productions that aired live in early 2020. We have had more success in producing outdoor performances and have decided to focus on that from fall 2020.
What were the reactions of the public to the digital performances?
At the start of the pandemic, audiences were so grateful to have theater in all its forms! After a few months, we noticed that the “zoom fatigue” extended to online content as well, and our audience weren’t as interested in streaming performance, although we still have a number of people who are. prefer!
What are you most excited to share with the public?
Our first production of the season is In the woods which will be reinvented in a completely unexpected way. The story remains the same, but the context of 2020 – the pandemic, Black Lives Matter, panic buying of goods, lockdown – all of the giants that we have struggled with in the past 18 months … they are all present. in the narration as well. But the message remains the same: no one is alone and there is light at the end of the tunnel.
We also just launched our new membership program – ZACH XP – which offers the public unlimited tickets to shows for $ 39 per month. We’re one of the first theaters in the country to launch a model like this, and we can’t wait to see where it goes!
How did your establishment develop a reopening plan / covid security plan?
We have spent months discussing our reopening plans and have various committees of staff and board members who prepare our plans and policies. We didn’t expect to be in such a severe phase of the pandemic again in the fall of 2021, but here we are. With that in mind, we’ve decided that the only way to stay open and move forward with our season is to implement a negative COVID test or proof of vaccination requirement for the public, to ensure that everyone is safe. If there is a way to ensure that we can keep art on stage, keep our audiences and staff safe, and not increase the burden on our healthcare workers, we will. We have received such a positive response from this decision.
Will there be any adjustments in terms of capacity or seating / vaccination or testing requirements?
Our first show is outdoors and will have a maximum capacity of 300 which is less than our typical indoor capacity. Starting in November, we’ll be heading back inside with a total capacity of 420 seats for A Christmas Carol. The public will be required to present either a negative COVID-19 test or proof of vaccination upon entry, and masks will be required for the duration of the show.
Will there be changes in the on-stage aspects of the shows in response to the pandemic?
Our actors and team have equity contracts, and all employees working on productions will follow the Actor’s Equity Association’s COVID requirements which include capabilities on number of people in a room for rehearsals, length of time inside, a COVID security officer on site at all times, etc.
Have there been any COVID considerations in the lineup for the upcoming season – title selection, etc. ?
While this in no way dictated our season, it was important to us that the season was about the times we live in. We wanted to be sensitive to what people have been going through over the past 18 months and let their theater experience be cathartic, hopeful and uplifting.
Will there be any changes to your ticketing policies, flexible rescheduling, etc. ?
The ZACH theater has been very flexible throughout the pandemic, and we will continue to do so. We have relaxed our refund and exchange policies a bit. If anyone needs to make any changes for health reasons, we’ll do it without questions.
How did you design the monthly subscription plan?
We created this plan in response to the public’s desire for more flexibility, to control their choice of seats and show dates, and to reduce up-front costs. Theaters across the country have seen people increasingly move away from traditional “fixed-seat” subscription packages – to more flexible subscriptions. This model is more in line with how audiences consume other entertainment media (think Netflix, Spotify, Alamo Drafthouse Season Pass). We hope to break down some of the barriers that prevent people from subscribing to their city’s theater and meeting them where they are.
Does the theater have die-hard fans who attend shows multiple times?
Yes! Most of our audience attends every show once – maybe twice – but we have a contingent of people who will come to their favorite show 10, even 20 times (watching you, Hedwig Fans!). While ZACH XP is a no-brainer for these folks, it is really created for the theater lover who may only see each show once, but comes to most of the season’s shows. Even if they don’t make them all, it still saves them time and money.
Since you usually have one show per month with maybe a bit of overlap, do some people plan to see a show multiple times?
Seeing a show several times is a real plus. ZACH XP is for the theater-goer who wants to see most of the season’s shows – whether once or five times. Even if they attend each show once, it is still a big saving for them to become a member.
Is there no limit to the number of times a person can attend? Could someone attend every performance of a show?
ZACH XP members can attend as many trade shows as they want! I would love to see someone try to do every performance!
What other benefits do monthly subscribers enjoy?
10% discount on additional tickets, bar purchases and merchandise
A special gift the month of your birthday
Invitations to member-only events
Discounts in surrounding bars and restaurants
Anything else the public should know about Zach XP subscription?
You often hear people “I love going to see shows at ZACH, I just forget I can do that on a random Tuesday night”. What I like about ZACH XP is that you have to think ahead about tickets, miss out on the best prices, etc. Your membership covers your ticket, so you can just show up and reserve your seat for free. And bring your friends who get a discount because they are with you! This makes it easier to fill your social calendar with less thinking and planning.
When and with what do you reopen?
Our first production of the season is In the woods which will be reinvented in a completely unexpected way. The story remains the same, but the context of 2020 – the pandemic, Black Lives Matter, panic buying of goods, lockdown – all of the giants that we have struggled with in the past 18 months … they are all present. in the narration as well. But the message remains the same: no one is alone and there is light at the end of the tunnel. It will be outside in the round.
What are you waiting for the most?
A Christmas Carol is an absolute Austin favorite and we weren’t able to produce it last year. The performances start in November and this will be the first time that we will be returning to our beautiful Topfer Theater. it’s going to be a huge celebration and look forward to being in this audience.
How did you stay engaged with your audience for the comeback?
Absoutely. We kept in touch with our audience via email, social media, and many of them attended our Songs under the stars concerts. I don’t know who is more excited to launch our new season – us or them!
How can audience members learn more and stay up to date?
Get all the info on our next season, camps and classes and more at zachheatre.org, or follow us on all social media at @zachheatre.