Theaterjones another closing, another show gas in dogs causes

When we chose Murder Ballad for our first musical, we knew it was going to present some unique challenges. It was relatively unknown, it was fully immersive, and it was incredibly demanding. We loved it—but we knew our work was cut out for us. Let’s dive into some of those challenges…

A huge part of our mission is producing lesser-known (or underproduced) works and styles of work. When we stumbled across Murder Ballad, it checked that box in a big way. That it was intended to be a fully immersive production excited us even more.

A significant challenge we ran into in the months and weeks leading up to opening was fighting an uphill battle of trying to share with our potential audiences just how electric this show really was. With our first full production, Glengarry Glen Ross, we were able to rely a little more on the material to help sell the show. People know and adore that script. With a regional premiere that never saw Broadway, it was a tougher sell.

Around the beginning of the production period, we made the decision to start a Marketing Committee for IMPRINT. It’s our first sub-committee from the full team and it turned out to be a great decision for the group. The committee started meeting monthly and really diving into how to market this piece and continue to engage our audiences.

We put a significant amount of energy into creating videos, ad campaigns, and graphics, hoping to make a strong enough splash to entice audience members, calendaring it down to the platform and the day, and dividing and conquering. A large portion of our energy was poured into marketing in the weeks before opening.

We worked hard and thankfully, that work paid off—but not right off the bat. People became engaged with the production and telling us how excited they were on social media and whenever we saw them, but when it came to preview night, we were a little unsettled by just how small our crowd was.

As a new company, we still don’t have our loyal audience members, and that was a big lesson to learn. The scariest thing I’ve run into so far as a producer is just that: will we sell the tickets? It proved tricky and frankly a bit exhausting getting actual butts in seats for our first few performances.

Thankfully, through the passion of all involved and our very enthusiastic audiences, word of mouth very quickly spread and our numbers picked up in a huge way. Halfway through opening weekend, we knew we were going to be OK—and ultimately we had full, wonderful audiences.

We knew from the moment we chose Murder Ballad that we wanted to go for complete immersion and truly build the bar experience. To achieve that you have to be a little fearless—which is easier said than done. What was too far? What wasn’t far enough? We wanted our environment to be real, but not cheesy or pulling the focus from the show.

We had many meetings strategizing how to create a fully fleshed out bar experience and how to blur the lines between theater and reality. We did a lot of research over the months leading up to the production. What kind of bar was it? How would we execute it? What were the necessary steps to keep it legal? (Fun fact: The entire cast, our stage manager, and the IMPRINT team got TABC certification so we could serve before, during, and after the show). After months of planning, we moved into the space the week before opening and dove right into building our very own short-term Bar. And work we did. Our concept proved to be a huge undertaking. Many nights were spent in Fair Park working until the wee hours of the morning. We were rehearsing until 11 p.m., staining drink stands at midnight, and cueing lights at 2 a.m.. But we were all so passionate about this idea and making it happen, even with our limited resources and shoestring budget. Everyone committed to carrying this show on their backs—together. It could not and would not have happened without every person involved.

It was such a cool experience. The cast, band, crew, designers, all uniting to build this other world – and the coolest part was watching it really explode when the audiences came in and existed within it. That was the piece that brought it all together: the audiences. They played pool, got drinks, and made the theater feel like a real neighborhood bar each night. There was a communal feeling during the performances, each night unique.

This isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (or pint of beer?) though. Not all audience members were completely comfortable with the full immersion, and that’s going to happen. Some patrons moved during the show because they felt “too close.” Others couldn’t stop talking about how cool being so close to the action was.

We are really proud of what happened with this production. It was truly a magical experience. We all poured our hearts and souls into it—and not just the IMPRINT team, but everyone involved. It became a true passion project and one that each of us will remember fondly for a very long time.

A moment that stands out vividly in my mind when thinking of Murder Ballad dates back to our Season Announcement Party last August. We were singing through one of the featured songs from the show with what would eventually become our official cast. At the end of the song, all four cast members lowered their binders and we all sort-of turned and looked at each other and everyone’s faces held the same expressions. This was going to be powerful. And it really was.