Kids are smart!

We’ve arrived at a very exciting decision this past week in class: our business venture will be a Holiday Arts Market at a local bar restaurant, Casey Moore’s. We know that our customer segment is a multi-sided platform, as we will serve two groups of people: student artists who will submit and sell their work, and the other people who come and buy the art.

We are still pinning down who exactly these ‘other people’ are, where they live, what they do on the weekends and how much they are willing to spend on art, but this week’s introduction to the Empathy Map will help us. The Empathy Map looks like this:

 Empathy-Map

It is our job as founders of the business to fill in the Empathy Map as we become more knowledgeable about our customer(s). The idea is that by the time we’ve filled a map out for each customer segment, we will have a clear archetype of who will be attending the Holiday Market. Talking to people about the market and our previous ideas has really been eye opening. It is extremely exciting to find strangers that think your idea is awesome and will actually work…and on the other end, kind of disappointing when strangers don’t think your idea is cool at all. As someone particularly interested in creating theatre for young people, I wonder what may happen if I interviewed or surveyed my audience before creating a piece.

I feel confident in stating that many many many adults do a lot of assuming about what children want to see onstage. As a Theatre for Youth MFA student, I am one of those adults. I recently wrote a play for young audiences, which will be produced at ASU on November 1. It’s called Nadine’s Coloring Book and it is about an eleven-year-old girl coming to terms, in her own imaginative way, with her father’s premature death. No one under the age of twenty-five has read this play yet, and although I’ve invited the 60+ children I teach, direct and interact with on a weekly basis, I wonder if my script would have been different had I spoken to my intended audience first. This leads me to wonder what would happen if children’s theatre companies actively spoke to children (and teachers and school administrators) about the types of scripts they’d like to see. So often, the shows being done for youth, especially at theaters that rely on field trip sales, are book adaptations of beloved stories. Maybe administrators want something a little edgier, too, but no one will ever know until they ask.

Coming up, I have the opportunity to create pre/post show workshops with a partner middle school for ASU’s Mainstage TYA play. The play is about adventure, coming of age and sisterhood, and the early set design renderings are based around a playground, inspired by recyclable items and found objects. Okay, so I want to create programming that can occur outside on a school’s playground, away from the classroom, that encourage students to “choose their own adventure,” while also creating musical instruments and other practical items with recyclable objects. After learning about the Empathy Map, and listening to Steve Blank’s lectures on UDACITY, I realize that my assumptions and hypotheses are just that: assumptions and hypotheses. Why not ask the 5th and 6th grade students that I know what their thoughts are about my proposed workshops? And maybe, just maybe, they will have even better ideas to contribute.

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About Ashley Laverty

Ashley is an M.F.A candidate in the Theatre for Youth program at Arizona State University. She received her B.A in Musical Theatre from Point Park University in Pittsburgh, PA. As an actress, Ashley has performed nationally for young audiences with the National Theatre for Children, VEE Corporation, Roxy Regional Theatre, Vital Theatre Company, and Storyland, a family amusement park. In Arizona, she teaches Musical Theatre and Acting classes and camps for children ages 3-16 at Childsplay, VOICES Studio and Homestead Playhouse. Ashley is interested in playwriting for a young audience, theatre for the very young and museum theatre. She works with the AZ Science Center and the i.d.e.a. museum.

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