Photo: Dahlia Katz
Offering up a unique blend of theatre, dance, music, and live art, the genre-fusing SummerWorks Festival is renowned for encouraging its artists and audiences to take risks, explore unexpected collaborations, and venture into new territory.
It’s also famous for its scope. SummerWorks is Canada’s largest curated performance festival, featuring 69 productions and 350 performances over its 11-day span — a breadth of programming that can prove challenging for many attendees who feel adrift amid a wealth of options.
To make navigating the festival’s 26th season a simpler process, SummerWorks has launched a beta version of its interactive mobile app where users can learn about productions, build customized festival schedules, and purchase tickets. They’ll also receive push notifications about pop-up events, special offers, and discounts.
SummerWorks created the app as part of Metcalf’s 2014 Creative Strategies Incubator. Over a three-year period, professional performing arts companies launch projects that tackle longstanding sector issues, while sharing their learning with the broader theatre community on a continual basis. For the 2014 cohort, the focus issue was “engaging audiences and building communities.”
SummerWorks’ app is one component of their larger mobile strategy, which is intended to “deepen the festival experience…while also offering unexpected and artful engagements in the spirit of SummerWorks,” writes Laura Nanni, the festival’s artistic and managing director. SummerWorks has included a feedback option on the app’s beta version to allow users to give their input and impact the future development of the project.
A recent study conducted in the United States found that smartphone users spend 90% of their time in apps in lieu of mobile web browsers. However, SummerWorks acknowledges that encouraging an app’s sustained use—and retaining its users—requires both careful planning and an ongoing investment of time and resources. “Making the app an essential tool, not just an added frill, is the key to seeing higher participation,” notes Nanni.