Friday, October 2, 2009

There is such a thing as free brunch

Out of curiosity last October, Susie Falk (then Cal Shakes Marketing Director, now Managing Director) ran a report to find out how many of our subscribers have been with us for 10 or more consecutive years. The result was pretty surprising: A little more than a third of our subscribers have been with us for the long haul. (You like us, you really like us.)

“We should say thank you,” posited Susie. “Can we do some kind of event? Maybe brunch?” It was a simple request, almost off-hand.

Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest ones.

There’s a flood of details that facilitate an event requiring 700+ invitations. I won’t bore you with all of that. Let’s just say that questions were asked and answered, a date was picked, invitations went out, and the response was phenomenal. More than 200 people RSVP'd in the positive; I lost track of how many of them asked one or both of the following things: “Is it really free?” and “This is just so nice of you to think of us this way.”

The morning of the brunch—this past Sunday, Sep 27—dawned hot, and it only got hotter as the sun climbed higher in the sky. The staff has long kidded about the hardiness of our patrons, but the members of the “10+ Club” showed that hardiness in spades on Sunday. Subscribers stood patiently in line for food while staff members introduced ourselves and brought over cold bottles of water and glasses of wine. They exchanged witty banter while filling out name tags that also advertised their number of years subscribing, with many people calculating subscription time based on how many years Cal Shakes had been at the Bruns (19) or how many years Jonathan Moscone had been the Artistic Director (10).

Danny Scheie, L. Peter Callender, and Jonathan Moscone
answer questions from the 10+ Club; photo by Jay Yamada.

After brunch, subscribers made their way into the amphitheater for a panel discussion. Jon reminisced about the highlights (and the occasional lowlights) of his time at Cal Shakes, with Associate Artists L. Peter Callender and Danny Scheie on hand to add their insider memories. At one point Jon opened the discussion up to the entire group, asking for suggestions of shows to add to future seasons. Some of the more interesting ideas floated by the panelists and the patrons included some of the less-performed histories, A Little Night Music, and a production in full Elizabethan garb, which all present agreed would actually be avant-garde for us!

The conversation lasted nearly an hour and, as subscribers filed out, a throng of staff members pressed specially designed thermal tote bags (perfect for picnics) into their hands as yet another thank you for year after year of loyalty.

All in all it was a smashing success. Not too shabby for such a simple idea.

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