They appeared seemingly out of nowhere: beautiful, brightly colored billboards with close-up images of eyes staring soulfully at passing drivers and pedestrians.
Turns out these images are not as mysterious as they look. They have one simple purpose: to get Portlanders to go see some damn plays.
With theater attendance still below pre-pandemic levels, Artists Repertory Theatre, Portland Center Stage, Portland Playhouse and Profile Theatre have joined forces for Go See a Play, a joint marketing campaign funded by a grant from the Oregon Community Foundation.
“Recovery requires unity,” Ela Roman, Portland Playhouse’s marketing communications director, said in a statement. “We believe that the challenges facing our theatres cannot be addressed in isolation. By coming together as a community, we can amplify our message and ensure that our theatres remain an integral part of Portland’s cultural fabric.”
Go See a Play aims to engage Portlanders visually, not only with the already iconic billboards (which you can see at 15 spots around town through December), but with a social media campaign and a website with a calendar featuring links to buy tickets to local shows.
This is more revolutionary than it seems. Aside from Broadway World Portland, our city has long lacked a local database for serious playgoers to keep track of the city’s shows. Not only that, but the site also advertises theater companies who are not part of the campaign.
“Our core belief is unwavering: community above competition,” said Katie Watkins, director of marketing and communications at PCS. “We firmly hold that a win for one theater is a win for all theaters, and the communities they serve.”
Go See a Play will also advocate for government funding for the arts, hosting letter writing sessions at local theater (for updates, check www.pdxtheatre.org).
“The magic of theatre isn’t just about the performances on stage; it’s audiences, artists, and patrons coming together,” said Eboni Lovell, communications director at Profile. “As we unite, we don’t just rebuild—we push Portland’s artistic scene to new heights.”