Filament Theatre Ensemble teams with online marketplace Zaarly to redefine “community theater”
Upping the ante on your garden-variety 24-hour plays and 48-hour musicals, Filament Theatre Ensemble is joining forces with online marketplace startup Zaarly to create a production in 36 hours that's fully community-sustained—meaning every aspect of the production is funded via Zaarly's tech-enhanced barter system.
Filament utilized a unique online ticketing system for its production of Eurydice and Orpheus last spring, having patrons fund specific elements of the show in exchange for the opportunity to see the results of their donation in action; the partnership with Zaarly is what Filament describes as the next step in the evolution of the theater's progressive business model.
“At the level we are working on, the reality is if someone pays $25 for a ticket, that $25 has already been used to purchase something they see on stage,” says Julie Ritchey, Filament's artistic director . “We don’t have huge endowments, and as a nonprofit, all the money we make goes into our productions, into paying our designers, paying our actors.”
In May, Ritchey spoke at the TedXMichiganAve event about using the Eurydice ticketing platform to create a sustainable theater company. Tim McDonald, the Chicago team leader for Zaarly, had been looking for ways to expand the application of the location-based program. When McDonald overheard TedX curator David Zoltan discussing Filament’s efforts at TechWeek in July, a meeting was arranged and Sustain36 was born.
“We’re both community oriented,” says McDonald. “Zaarly doesn’t work if you don’t have people in the local community wanting to participate in it. We got our name Zaarly from the old world Moroccan bazaar environment where it was more of a buyer-driven marketplace, and Filament is looking at ways to bring back the traditional old world theater with the sense of community involvement.”
The 36-hour, locally sourced theater project begins Wednesday 24 at 8am, when Filament ensemble members will set up shop at 4047 N Milwaukee Ave and choose a play title from among those submitted through Zaarly over the last week. As the group creates a brand-new piece, the production’s necessities will be posted on Zaarly for local theatergoers to help procure. From costumes and props to meals for the cast, every element of the process will rely on the support of the community to come to fruition.
While using the Zaarly platform creates intriguing financial opportunities, Filament is hoping the project will bring the community into the creative process as well. “Anyone strolling by can come in and hang out,” says Ritchey. “If you bring an item to lend us, we’d love for you to stay and be part of the process.” Contributors through Zaarly receive a free ticket to the show on Thursday at 8pm; without a donation, tickets are $36. Either way, they include admission to Filament's season launch party immediately after the show.