By Jonathan Slaff, La MaMa's Press Representative

Please print this information and refer back to it as needed. It contains the recipe for a successful press campaign for your show.

[01] What does La MaMa do?
[02] What about photos?
[03] What kind of press information is needed?
[04] Where should I send my information?

Our crack publicist works hard for you.

Efforts at obtaining editorial press coverage begin from the time your show is scheduled. We issue a season press calendar beginning at the end of June (for the following season) and update it continually. This is necessary because many magazines and long-lead calendars have three-month deadlines.

A press release intended to stimulate short-lead articles, newspaper listings and critics' reviews will be mailed four weeks prior to your opening. It will be a journalistic-style feature story that contains a request for listings and a critics' invitation. The size of the postal mailing is between 320 and 420 pieces. An additional 120 to 170 are delivered by email. Photo submissions are also made at this time. Ethnic and special-interest publications, such as Chinese Press and Gay Press, are always included (whenever appropriate). The size of the mailing is large because New York is a very rich media market.

Due diligence--maintaining a professional standard-- requires that no entertainment or culture writer be left out. Therefore, we send La MaMa publicity even to journalists and media organizations who seldom cover La MaMa, including broadcast journalists. We do not expect press coverage from any of the organizations we solicit for coverage, but we invite it; we hope for it; we accomodate it and we do all we can to facilitate it.

Press kits are given out as journalists arrive to pick up their tickets in the lobby at 74A East Fourth Street. The house manager, using La MaMa's reservations list (provided by the office), tapes "reserved" signs on seats for people with press reservations.


VIVID AND UNIQUE -- For Alice Farley's "Black Water (dancing below the light)," we used this image of a 14-foot dancing puppet that seemed emblematic of the show. (photo: Jonathan Slaff)

I have learned that newspapers are always looking for photos that will dress up their pages with novelty and pizazz. With today's large selection of photo placement opportunities--"choices" sections, arts calendars and going-out guides--there are many outlets for small presenters to outshine larger ones by simply being more imaginative and creative in their publicity photos. But certain rules must be followed in submitting photos for any production. Following these guidelines will greatly increase your chances for success.

1. To make all publication deadlines, it is necessary to have the photos to me four weeks ahead of your opening date.

2. Since there is such a proliferation of color publications these days, it is no longer purposeful to send out black and white photos for theatrical publicity.

3. Thanks to new technologies, it is now standard to submit publicity photos digitally. Hard-copy photos are still accepted, but seldom used because of the convenience of email. (When it comes to hard-copy color photos, magazine photo editors traditionally have preferred slides or transparencies over color prints. This is because most art directors believe that slides print better.)

4. I have professional scanning equipment that can digitalize photographic prints, slides and negatives, so if you need to use a photo in one of these formats, you only need to bring it to me and I will take care of the rest.

5. WHAT WILL NOT GET PRINTED: "family photos" (ones that depict the whole cast, smiling at the camera) and photos that are too dark. Medium close-ups of one, two or three people are usually well suited to the small sizes in which most newspaper photos appear. The standard size to submit for publication is 8" by 10." Smaller pictures are regarded as amateurish. Photos are not newsworthy if they contain people who are not in the show or depict shows that are different from the one that is being announced. Images of a painting or clay sculpture, theater posters, and photos of the subject of a play which do not record its actual participants will probably not get used. However, mask shots are usually quite successful.

6. I NEED CAPTION INFORMATION: who is in the photo (right to left), who is the photographer. Do not have captions printed on the front of your prints; I will tape a caption on the back.

7. I strongly urge you to use a professional theatrical photographer. They are not that expensive and the difference is remarkable. Experience shows that when you try to save money by using an amateur photographer, or if you use a professional from another specialty, you will wind up spending just as much money and getting pictures that don't run in the papers.

8. For further suggestions on planning your publicity photographs, please READ MY ON-LINE ARTICLE ABOUT PUBLICITY PHOTOS THAT SELL. I can also mail you a copy of a published article, "11 Ways to Help Photos Sell your Show" (Stage Directions, June/July 1995) or "Publicity Photos that Succeed" (Poor Dancer's Almanac, Winter 1991-92). A referral list of theatrical photographers is available upon request.


For the season press calendar, only enough to write a 35-50 word desciption. For an example of a La MaMa press calendar, please SEE OUR EXAMPLE FROM A PREVIOUS SEASON.

If you are doing a play, PLEASE GIVE ME THE SCRIPT. (Believe it or not, most productions don't think of this necessary step!)

From this point on, let us speak about your show's individual press release. The following information elements must be provided so it can be informative and truthful:

1. What is the significance of the title?

2. What does it look like (the stage design)?

3. What kind of music is in it?

4. Is it language-based theater or "movement theater"?

5. Is it in a foreign language? If so, what provision is made for understanding by English-speaking audience?

6. Is there a "story" or linear plot? What is it? If it's not that conventional, please explain the use of imagery.

7. Is this an American premiere or New York premiere?

8. Biographies: author(s), director

9. Cast list.

10. List of designers: set, lighting, costumes, musical director. Also sound designer or composer. In a musical or dance piece,bio of composer is needed.

11. Running time (how long is the performance, in hours and minutes). Is there an intermission?

12. Reviews or newspaper articles (in English) I can refer to and mail out in press kits.

13. Please note: In order to have New York TV reviews, you must first be able to supply the station with broadcast-quality video of the production. Broadcast quality formats are: Digital, 3/4" and Betacam. If all you have is VHS, I will be grateful for a look at it so I can do my homework on your show, but it will not be good enough for broadcasting.


To telephone me, please dial: (212) 924-0496.

My personal Email address is: js@jsnyc.com.

My fax number is (TOLL FREE!) 1-877-534-4061.

In general, Email is preferred over faxes.

If you have shipped or delivered a pachage of information to La MaMa, please advise me so I will know it is there!

| A Previous Season's La MaMa Press Calendar | Article on Press Photos |