Canberra company launches a theatre app ‘for the whole continent’

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Richard Block and Bernie Ryan of Stagecenta.

THERE’S a buzz around the national capital and, it’s hoped, the nation, with news that Canberra-based theatre guide and ticketing platform, Stagecenta, has released a theatre-specific app. 

The app, which has now been launched live on both Apple and Google Play stores, allows actors, designers, technicians, theatre companies and venues to register their information and shows.

Even better, it enables theatregoers to locate “every show, everywhere, every day” across Australia with the swipe of a finger.

The new app.

The new app comes loaded with show details and times, a geo-location function to find shows near users, links to ticket purchases, directions to theatres, cast bios and photos, reviews, search functions, five-star show ratings and the ability to follow actors and receive notifications of their next performances.

According to Stagecenta’s business manager, Bernie Ryan, the app has been a labour of love for Stagecenta’s founder and director, Richard Block.

“He’s been thinking about this for about two years… we workshopped the idea with a group of local people to find out what they’d want, then we put it to our app developer,” Ryan says.

“Covid was super helpful, in that there weren’t a lot of shows to work on.”

After developing the concept with Block and their programmer, Ryan spent months collating online Australian theatre venues and adding to it.

Ryan spent months scouring the country. She went to Instagram and Facebook groups, and theatre networks like Arts Hub, Aussie Theatre and Stage Whispers. In Canberra, she looked at the winners of the CAT awards and googled every possible list of venues and companies, finding it harder for companies without websites.

“I’ve got the mother of all databases now,” she boasts.

To my suggestion that this might become a terrible burden, she says she figures that after a while it should drive itself. As theatre people sign up – she stresses that the app is free – they can list their next shows easily, then “start taking carriage of their own entries”.

“We put up a basic listing, but once people register, they’ll be able to log in, avail themselves of all the additional features, then upload cast biographies and other details.”

Ryan believes many Australians are turned off theatre by its cost and apparent elitism, but if they go onto the app, she predicts, “they can see that they don’t have to spend $160, they can spend $35 and enjoy the play around the corner. It might encourage them.

“But first we want them to start realising it’s free, so that they can log on.”

She’s become aware of some resistance to the idea of professional and amateur theatre being in the same space, but says she and Block don’t think there needs to be such a delineation, since community theatre participants often end up in the profession.

Ryan says that while there are certainly apps like this in London or Broadway, to her knowledge there is nothing that encompasses “a whole continent”.

At the moment everything is free, she explains, but once it’s up and running users will be able to pay for banner ads, which could become a prime piece of marketing “real estate”. To minimise potential congestion, they’ll put banners on shows relevant to the user – their clever programmer is already working on this.

There’ll be a star-rating system but it’s entirely user-driven, so that if people register for a show there’ll be a pop-up message asking them to vote which can’t be manipulated by theatre companies.

“Stagecenta’s mission is to put the community before profit,” she says.

“But the overall mission is to widen the theatre demographic.”

Companies and individuals can register their profiles via the app, or at stagecenta.com

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Helen Musa
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