Lindsay Tolar is the Publicist for Shakespeare Theatre Company. She is responsible for coordinating all of the press requests at STC. Being a publicist is one of the toughest jobs in theatre. You have to deal with the different personalities of the press – and sometimes – not so flattering reviews of your shows. Lindsay has all the qualities of a great Publicist – she’s very friendly, very organized, very patient, very accommodating, and she returns phone calls and responds to emails quickly!
What was your major in college?
I was a theatre major at the University of North Carolina: Greensboro with a concentration in communications. Theatre has always been my passion and when I discovered that I could make a living promoting theatre, I was hooked!
What was your first job as a publicist?
The Publicist for Mill Mountain Theatre in Roanoke, VA was my very first ‘real job.’ I was lucky enough to start this job right after my internship with Triad Stage in Greensboro, NC and college graduation. I was responsible for all media pitches and requests as I am now, but I also negotiated the advertising and developed promotions for the theatre. One of my proudest achievements at Mill Mountain Theatre was the “Bah Hum Bug” promotion I created in conjunction with our production of A Christmas Carol. I worked with our Director of Development and our wonderful Account Executive at a local radio station (Q99 FM) to get a Volkswagen Bug donated from a local dealer. We gave the “Bah Hum Bug” away through a contest during one of our sold-out performances. It was a great opportunity to promote the show, garnered a lot of press through different outlets and it also brought in new audience members to the theatre.
I imagine you have to deal with some pretty ‘out there’ requests. What is the strangest one you have received?
Some people may call them strange, but I call them fun. Two of the most unique requests I have received as a Publicist have been from Maura Judkis. When she worked for TBD.com she wrote an entire series about prop severed heads and the Shakespeare Theatre Company happened to have both a severed head and a headless body in Cymbeline. The photo shoot was fantastic, two actors sat outside our theatre tossing the prop head back and forth. Thank goodness there wasn’t much foot traffic that day!
Another fun request from Maura came recently during our run of The Heir Apparent. She wrote a story for The Washington Post about Cordelia, the show’s starring pig. Maura’s questions were certainly creative and it was so interesting to see the cast, owner and reporter interacting with the pig. Once again, the photo shoot was a lot of fun. I never thought I would coordinate a photo shoot with a pig; guess I should add that to my resume!
When a show gets well-reviewed you have plenty of quotes to put in ads. What happens when you have a production that is not well received? How do you handle it?
We are lucky enough at the Shakespeare Theatre Company to have amazing production values; we are well known for our amazing costumes and sets. If a play doesn’t get the best review, our production elements still shine and receive great acclaim. And we are also lucky that there are numerous D.C. critics out there, giving us plenty of opportunities for a difference of opinion. Also, the audience word of mouth is extremely vital and can help in this instance.
What advice do you have for someone who is considering becoming a Theatrical Publicist?
Be flexible! Your days will never be the same, you are on the go a lot and a communications plan that worked for one show won’t necessarily work on the next. Always think outside of the box on different ways to engage multiple audiences. Come up with unique pitches for press contacts that don’t normally cover theatre, that way you can reach a brand new audience and hopefully engage them enough that they want to check out your theatre/product. You will come into contact with many different personalities and you have to be willing to adapt in order to get the job done. And always be ready to promote your upcoming show. With that – come see Much Ado About Nothing – it runs through January 1st!
Much Ado About Nothing runs through January 1, 2012 at Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Sidney Harman Hall – 610 F Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets and information, call (202) 547-1122 or purchase them online.