I have changed my mind about theater bloggers.

About three years ago, I was doing PR for an area theater, and I was regularly approached by bloggers who asked for comp tickets and/or an interview with a cast member. I admit that I assumed their audience was too small to warrant my attention.

Then, in late 2012, while performing at Children’s Theatre Company, I observed something that took me a bit by surprise. A group of parents and children were invited to watch a dress rehearsal of Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas, and I was informed that several of the adults were bloggers. Here I saw one of our regions largest and most celebrated theaters welcoming bloggers with open arms.

I started to take notice of the large presence of independent community writers online—who are simply writing for the love of theater.

Some submit articles to collaborative sites that openly accept contributions while others have created their own blogs. Some are professional writers while others are admitted amateurs who just love to spread the word. Some write reviews of productions while others publish interviews. But one thing is certain, as the media landscape evolves in the digital age, as new avenues of connection are created, the value and importance of our theater community’s online presence grows in various forms.

These “community” writers are a viable and vital bridge between our art form and the members of our audience, now and in the future, who spend a great deal of time online.

As my thinking on this developed, I decided to compile a list of local theater blogs (see below) and I got to sit down with two active bloggers, Jill Schafer (cherryandspoon.com) and Laura Van Zandt (onegirltwocities.com)

Why did you decide to blog about theater, and how long have you been doing it?

JILL (cherryandspoon.com): After becoming a Guthrie subscriber in 2003, I found myself visiting more theaters around town. I wanted a way to process and share my experiences. I started Cherry and Spoon in the summer of 2010 as my personal (yet public) theater journal.

LAURA (onegirltwocities.com): I started my blog in September 2013. I grew up going to the touring shows the Orpheum but had only just started discovering the amazing local theater scene. I started writing about it as a way to highlight the hardworking creative community that we're so fortunate to have here. (And maybein a small part for the press tickets.)

Who is your audience and what kind of responses have you received?

JILL: I write for my fellow theatergoers to show them everything that is available to us right here in Minneapolis and St. Paul. My greatest success as a theater blogger is when someone emails me that they went to see a show because of something they read on C&S, and loved it. I've also been lucky enough to meet many of my favorite theater artists, and it's an absolute thrill when someone I admire tells me that they read and appreciate my writing.

LAURA: Truthfully, I'm still figuring out my audience. I try to encourage people who aren't regular theater-goers to attend shows if I know it will interest them. I also write for the casts and crews who deserve to know they're awesome. I generally receive positive responses because I'm not too nitpicky.

What are some of the benefits and challenges you have found using this format to write about theater?

JILL: The benefit of being an independent theater blogger is that I make my own rules. I can decide what I want to see and how much I want to write. I can include obscure references or indulge in a silly digression if I feel like it. By far the biggest challenge of being a theater blogger is managing my schedule. This community is so rich that no one person can possibly see everything, even if you average 3-5 shows a week as I do.

LAURA: I don't have any kind of theater background (ok, I confess I worked in the box office for my high school a few times) so critiquing the technical aspect of shows challenges me. I also struggle with the balance of how many details about a show I should share while still enticing people to see it. One huge benefit to writing about it is being able to tell people they should get their butts out of the house and into theater seats! We have such accessible theater here, and I think everyone should take advantage of it from time to time.

What would you like the Twin Cities theater community to know about you and your blog?

JILL: I'm not a critic, or a journalist, or an actor. I'm just someone who loves the Twin Cities theater community. I write from the audience perspective. I'm just your average theatergoer, except that I may see more theater than your average theatergoer. Being a witness to this amazing community truly is my greatest joy.

LAURA:  My blog includes a little bit of everything happening in the Twin Cities, but theater is absolutely a huge part of that. In the end, I write for fun and enjoy sharing my experiences in the hopes that I inspire others to go on their own adventures.

A BLOG DIRECTORY

CHERRY AND SPOON
http://www.cherryandspoon.com
Format: Blog
Author: Jill Schafer
Description: (see above)

ONE GIRL TWO CITIES
www.onegirltwocities.com
Format: Blog
Author: Laura Van Zandt
Description: (see above)

GIRL MEETS BROADWAY
http://girl-meets-broadway.com
Format: Blog
Operator: Erin Nagel
Description: “Just a girl who loves Broadway,” Erin writes to share her love of theater with the masses. This blog features reviews and interviews.

MINNESOTA THEATER LOVE
http://mntheaterlove.blogspot.com/
Format: Blog
Operators: Carol Jackson, along with sister Julie and friend Keith
Description: Two sisters and one good friend who decided to write a theater blog after being enraptured by a performance of Kneehigh Theatre’s Tristan and Yseult at The Guthrie. Their goal is to promote Twin Cities theater and to stimulate discussion.

THE MINNEAPOLITE
http://www.theminneapolite.blogspot.com/
Format: Blog
Operator: Rachel Welch
Description:  A blog about arts and leisure in the Twin Cities from the perspective of a Minnesota transplant.

PhenomMNal TWIN CITIES
http://www.phenomnaltwincities.com/
Format: Blog
Operator: Stephanie K.
Description: "Your budget-oriented guide to getting most out of living in Minneapolis & St. Paul."  With respect to theater, she posts about noteworthy budget-friendly theater options as well as reviews and ticket giveaways for shows.

THE TANGENTIAL
http://thetangential.com/
Format: Blog
Author: Various contributors
Description: A pop culture and creative writing blog, founded in 2011 by Becky Lang, Jay Gabler, and Becky Sisneros. They “publish writing about anything and everything, as long as it isn’t boring and doesn’t suck,” including articles about Twin Cities theater.

AISLE SAY TWIN CITIES
http://aislesaytwincities.com
Format: Internet magazine
Authors: Contributors include Liz Byron, Adam M. Schenck, and Tamar Neumann
Description: Aisle Say Twin Cities is the Minneapolis/St. Paul branch of Aisle Say Magazine, which hosts theater reviews across the country.

HOW WAS THE SHOW
http://www.howwastheshow.com
Format: Internet magazine
Authors: Contributors include David and Chelsea Berglund, director Janet Preuss, photographer Pamela Diedrich, and playwright John Olive
Description: Owned and founded 13 years ago by David de Young, published articles include extensive reviews of plays, occasional reviews of music performances, published interviews, and photosets.

BROADWAY WORLD- MINNEAPOLIS
http://www.broadwayworld.com/minneapolis/
Format: Internet magazine
Authors: various contributors
Description: Broadwayworld.com features articles about Broadway, theater, and live entertainment from around the world. Each major metropolitan area has it’s own sub-heading, and contributors submit articles specific to their geographic area of interest.

REDCURRENT
http://blog.redcurrent.com
Format: Internet magazine
Authors: various contributors
Description: The RedCurrent blog features public reviews and articles about arts and leisure in the Twin Cities.

SECRETS OF THE CITY
http://www.secretsofthecity.com/blog
Format: Internet magazine
Authors: various contributors
Description: This website is a product of The Rake magazine and the blog MNSpeak.com, a Twin Cities open blog and news/blog aggregator. Blog entries feature articles about music, theater, and other events happening in the Twin Cities.

TWIN CITIES DAILY PLANET
http://www.tcdailyplanet.net
Format: Internet magazine
Authors: various contributors
Description: The Twin Cities Daily Planet is a project of the non-profit Twin Cities Media Alliance, publishing original articles and blog entries in an effort to serve their mission of connecting citizens with one another and with the global community. The Arts section features many theater reviews and articles.

L’ETOILE MAGAZINE
http://www.letoilemagazine.com/arts/
Format: Internet magazine
Authors: Various contributors
Description: Each Thursday, they publish a new online edition of the Weekend What’s What, a look at under-the-radar local events. They also produce feature stories, weekly columns spanning music, film, art, fashion, and underground culture. Interviews with local creatives, reviews of events and businesses, photo editorials, etc.

THE DRESSING ROOM from CITY PAGES
http://blogs.citypages.com/dressingroom/
Format: Blog operated through City Pages website
Authors: Ed Huyck and others
Description: City Pages is a Twin Cities alternative weekly newspaper that features an arts blog on their website, complete with articles about artists and arts events.

THE GREEN ROOM from THE IVEY AWARDS
http://iveyawards.tumblr.com/
Format: Blog operated through Ivey Awards website
Authors: Ivey Awards staff
Description: Weekly “Openings and Closings” listed, plus occasional extra commentary

NOISEPICNIC
http://noisepicnic.com/
Format: Podcast
Operators: Aric McKeown, Mike Fotis, and Levi Weinhagen
Description: NoisePicnic is a podcasting network created for the purposes of publishing, encouraging, and collecting a variety of unique podcasts from the extremely creative and talented people in the Minnesota Twin Cities area.

Author’s Note: I also had the pleasure to speak with Bartley Stratton, a former Twin Cities resident and theater blogger who now lives in and writes about San Diego. Bartley promoted the Twin Cities theater scene for several years through reviews and interviews. I thank her for her time in speaking with me for this article, and I invite you to visit her blog as well: www.theplaybillcollector.com.