Actors Theatre of Louisville (2015)

Actors Theatre of Louisville (2015)

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For more than 40 years, Actors Theatre of Louisville (ATL) built itself into its city’s flagship arts institution and one of the major regional theaters in the United States. Its success was rooted in a strategy of producing different kinds of plays for two separate audiences. ATL was known nationally for the Humana Festival of New American Plays (Humana), a showcase for world premieres long regarded by the theater industry as the premier event of its kind. For local audiences, ATL mounted a Main Stage Series of established plays and two perennially popular holiday shows.

Despite the model’s success, by the fall of 2015 it was clear that a change was needed. Decades of marketing Humana for national visitors created a perception that it was not for the local community. While not initially a problem, Humana had grown significantly since its inception and had the capacity to develop a larger audience. At the same time, Les Waters, ATL’s artistic director, pushed for more community engagement with Humana’s new plays.

Now in his second season at ATL, Marketing Director Steve R. Knight believed that the traditional marketing strategies for Humana encouraged Louisvillians to stay away. “There were times when it seemed almost invitation-only,” he said. “We alienated the local audience – maybe not alienated, but they just didn’t think that it was for them.” Knight knew that the company had expanded its local outreach about Humana in the years prior to his arrival, but the pace of change was accelerating. He needed to adapt the Humana Festival’s marketing tactics to increase local engagement.

Publication Date: 2016-05-15

Suggested Citation: Adam Frank, "Actors Theatre of Louisville (2015)," Yale Theater Management Knowledge Base Case Study #14-72, May 15, 2016

Keywords: Kentucky, Audience, Community, Marketing, Strategy

Teaching Notes: Yes (contact yaletmknowledgebase@yale.edu)

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This case is from the Theater Management Knowledge Base, a body of arts management material created by Yale School of Drama Theater Management students and faculty, overseen by an editorial board of leading practitioners. For more information or for help in selecting cases suitable for your educational or organizational purposes, please email yaletmknowledgebase@yale.edu.