For Connecticut theatergoers interested in visiting New York to catch a Broadway or off-Broadway show, there’s a new critic available to them 24/7 right on their mobile phones. Actually, there are hundreds of critics available right at their fingertips, thanks to a new mobile app, available free of charge through the iTunes App Store, called “StageGauge.”
Theatergoers can click on the app and discover ratings and reviews by audience members similar to themselves, who have uploaded their rankings and comments to StageGauge, for all shows currently playing on or off-Broadway. According to co-founders Gary J. Cooper and Adam Sansiveri, the app is fostering the creation of a mobile theater community, in which theater fans can write their own reviews of shows they have seen while at the same time helping audience members decide which shows they may want to see.
According to Sansiveri, “the development of this app speaks to new trends in the theater industry that see mobile technology playing a greater role as society moves further and further toward the use of personal devices.” He cites, for example, the recent upgrade to the Playbill website that provides access to not only the latest national and international theater news, but to the ability to immediately learn more about the actors you have just watched on stage. Ticket purchases are being increasingly processed on line and more and more theatergoers are using their smartphones or tablets to make those purchases.
What has been missing, said Cooper, is the ability of the mobile user to access reviews of show sin a timely manner and in a single place. StageGauge grew out of that need, he added, as well as the recognition that fewer critics’ reviews were available as more newspapers went out of business or seriously curtailed their theater coverage. StageGauge, he indicated, is designed to fill that gap by allowing audience members to share their experiences online and provide helpful information to potential ticket buyers.
The website was “soft launched” late last year with no advertising and Sansiveri stated that they are very excited to have met their initial projections for interest and participation. “We are getting followed and seeing the sharing of opinions about various shows right at where we want to be at this time,” he reported.
Their intention, he continued, is for users to be able to follow specific reviewers over time whose preferences and reactions match theirs, providing users with reliable voices whose reports and opinions they can trust.
Any audience member can join the site as a reviewer, and the system for uploading a review is easy. There are various listings that enable a reviewer to find a specific show, and once there, convenient prompts allow the reviewer to provide an overall rating to the show (up to five stars) and similarly rate three key elements, acting, costumes and set, plus music and choreography for musicals. In addition, raters can add a written review of any length regarding their reactions to more specific elements of a show.
“As passionate theatre fans and entrepreneurs, we wanted to offer people the opportunity to share their theatergoing experiences in an honest and engaging social forum,” the duo indicted. “The critics’ reviews can heavily influence even the most seasoned of theatergoers and very often do not align with the tastes of the general public. In creating StageGauge, we wanted to take the influence away from a small handful of critics and give it to the masses.”
The app, as it now stands, is only in its initial stage of development. Additional capabilities are intended to be added regularly over time in response to users of the app and advances in technology, the duo revealed.
Cooper and Sansiveri bring complementary backgrounds in technology and entertainment to this venture. A former computer programmer, Cooper played a significant role in the creation, development and eventual sale of a high-tech start-up in Cupertino, CA, Coopers and Chyan Technology, in the mid-1990’s. He relocated to New York 14 years ago and has been active as a professional photographer, an international child advocate and theater lover. He co-founded Guatemala 900, a campaign advocating for 900+ children in that country whose adoptions to the United States had stalled.
Sansiveri has been involved in the entertainment industry in one aspect or another for most of his professional life. He started out as an opera singer and subsequently founded a digital design company, while going on to becoming one of Broadway’s youngest ever producers. He currently leads the Entertainment, Media and Sports practice at Bernstein Private Wealth Management and also serves as the Finance Chair of the Broadway Dreams Foundation and sits on the Patrons Council of Carnegie Hall.
For further information on StageGauge, visit their website at www.stagegauge.net. To download the free app to one’s mobile phone or tablet, visit the iTunes app store here.