Kicking up a Stink about B.C.'s Provincial Budget Cuts with Social Media Mavin Rebecca Coleman

“Kicking up a big stink works,” says Rebecca Coleman—grinning. “And social networking is a powerful way to mobilize the troops.” 

We’re talking about the recent Provincial budget cuts to theatre companies and the response that people like Coleman helped to rally—via Twitter and Facebook. 

“We are a force to be reckoned with,” says Rebecca. “And a great deal of how the information got around was via social networking. I was able to attend meetings and post the results almost immediately on my blog. Other bloggers were doing the same. Facebook groups helped to keep us all organized in terms of meetings, and Twitter was spreading our ire.” 

And it made a difference.  

“Due to the outcry, all the companies that had multi-year funding did get their funding restored—whether it will last or not, who knows?” 

In quieter times, Rebecca Coleman’s job as theatre publicist is simply to get people’s butts into theatre seats. But it’s never that simple. Part of her job is to let people know about independent theatre companies and what they’re offering. And some of what they’re offering is pretty edgy. So she’s part educator, part translator, part ambassador. As well as a marketing and publicity expert. 

How did it all begin? Blame it on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. When Coleman stepped onto stage in a student production, something happened. Something big.  

Despite an “almost insurmountable stage fright,” she says, “I had one of those aha! moments: this was where I belonged, and what I wanted to spend my life doing.” 

And she has. In almost every conceivable role.  

Ten years ago, Coleman joined a small theatre company.  

“I think there were 5 of us. We did everything—writing, acting, directing, building the sets, you name it. We knew someone had to be in charge of publicity, and because I had a friend that knew how to write press releases and do up media kits, I ended up with that job. My friend gave an afternoon of his time, and I became the company’s publicist. I did publicity for about six years like that—mostly as a part-time thing, a hobby, primarily for friends. Then, in July of 2007, my government-funded job got unfunded, and I decided to jump into theatre publicity full-time. I took a small business course at BCIT, launched my business in December of 2007, and haven’t looked back.”  

She has worked for companies like Touchstone, Ruby Slippers Theatre, Presentation House, and Radix.

Her favourite show? 

“Too hard! It would be like choosing a favorite child! Tony ‘n’ Tina’s Wedding will always have a special place in my heart, because I have a long history with them. I also really loved a tiny show by TigerMilk Collective called Exit Commander Kitty. And Palace of the End stirred my emotions in a way they had not been stirred by a piece of theatre in a long time. And Metamorphoses. Set in a swimming pool.”  

The craziest? 

“I adore Leaky Heaven Circus, but doing publicity for them is an exercise in patience, because the show is never finished until opening night. I always read the script before I even take the job, but with Antigone Undone and Bone In Her Teeth (which, to this day, remains one of my favorite shows), I felt like I was publicizing in the dark!”

Just the sort of challenge Coleman seems to thrive on.

To learn more about Rebecca Coleman, visit her website, http://www.rebeccacoleman.ca

She writes a regular blog called “The Art of the Business” http://artofthebiz.com

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