Engine31 is a pop-up newsroom – that is, it pops up for the last weekend of this year’s Humana Festival of New American Plays, produces dozens of stories about the festival and then is archived on the web. It is the product of 12 arts journalists from around America, brought together specifically for this project.
As coverage of the arts in the traditional press has declined, we at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism have been working on new and different ways of covering the arts. In the spring of 2011 we created Engine28 in Los Angeles, a pop-up to cover three theatre festivals and the annual TCG theatre conference. In the space of six days a team of about 40 journalists produced more than 100 stories, and the website attracted thousands of visitors. In two subsequent Engines (29 and 30) we’ve refined the pop-up. Engine31/Humana is our first test outside of Los Angeles. Is this a good model for covering important arts events? Perhaps.
HumanaFest is one of the most important new play festivals in America. What plays here is of great interest to theatres around America, and the plays seen here often appear elsewhere. So we thought as journalists it would be interesting to try to capture as much of the festival as possible, record what people are saying about the plays, see what’s getting buzz, and try to analyze and contextualize what we see as a way of giving the larger theatre audience a window on what happens here.
Our team of journalists from all over the country began looking at the Festival lineup two months before it started and worked on figuring out where the stories are. We began to aggregate and curate everything that everyone else was writing and broadcasting. Two members of our team attended the third weekend of the festival, doing advance work, conducting interviews and writing previews. The rest of the team arrived April 3 and spent the final weekend of the festival creating video, sound, image and text about it.
Engine31 was made possible with the generous support of the Doris Duke Charitable Trust, and in-kind support from the Actors Theatre of Louisville
Comments or questions are welcome.