It’s not every day that our passions and skills merge to form the perfect profession, but in Martin Denton’s case, that’s exactly what happened. In the mid 1990s, after years of working in IT for Marriott International, Denton enrolled in a basic Internet class and created the first version of nytheatre.com, one of the first websites to chronicle and review theatre events in New York City.
|“I had an interest in theatre and technology and was in the right place at the right time,” says Denton. “The technology was simple, and there was very little competition.” He founded The New York Theatre Experience, Inc. (NYTE) in 1996, and he incorporated as a nonprofit in 1999.
“I went from being a corporate guy with a theatre hobby to a theatre guy with a corporate past,” says Denton of his career switch. His job, as he defines it, is to find new ways to use technology to benefit actors, playwrights and other theater artists. “I love what I do, but I don’t have the resources to hire staff or make fancy purchases,” he says.
“TechSoup has given my organization — which is almost exclusively a Microsoft shop — access to lots of lovely tools and software that I couldn’t have afforded on my own.”
NYTE is the producer of New York's first original, regularly scheduled podcast series about theatre, nytheatrecast.com. Since 2000, NYTE has also published the “Plays and Playwrights” series, a yearly anthology of plays by emerging playwrights. In addition, NYTE operates indietheaternow.com, launched last August, dedicated to getting new plays into the hands of the public and revenue into the pockets of up and coming playwrights. “It serves as a lab for developing new work and provides a platform where playwrights can attract attention and collect royalties,” says Denton.
In 2009, Microsoft selected NYTE as a “Show Your Impact” contest winner and awarded the organization $25,000 to use toward new software. “This award was the catalyst for completely upgrading the website and moving the organization to the next level,” Denton says. He’s now getting ready to implement a full text search to the site. “We have huge archives and reviews of more than 8,000 shows, so being able to easily find information is critical to our success.”
As a result of NYTE’s organization-wide Microsoft upgrades, the site is much easier to update and maintain and more user-friendly. Denton has added new design and functionality, while eliminating a lot of the grunt work. What once took up his entire Sunday now takes just a few clicks. “Before, I had to painstakingly create each new web page, one at a time. Now the process to get new reviews and listings on to the site takes about five minutes. The productivity gain has been immense!” he says.
NYTE uses MapPoint to geocode locations of more than 200 venues listed on nytheatre.com. Its new SQL Server/C# 2010 system makes the listings and website infrastructure run more smoothly. And it also helps Denton manage his volunteer base. This is especially important during the New York International Fringe Festival every August. People sign up to review nearly 200 theatre, dance, puppetry, comedy, and dramatic productions that all take place over this 17-day period. Also, as a result of the new SQL Server database, Denton added a "Trip Planner" feature to display a customized page showing exactly what shows are playing during a given period of interest.
Microsoft Expression Studio helps Denton manage images, and Expression Web assists in editing XML files. “Having access to these tools has allowed me to build things I couldn’t have imagined building before. The organization is 1,000 percent better than it was.”
Since he builds and maintains the sites himself, Denton says he often turns to the many resources that Microsoft provides for support. “Any issue or question I have can usually be easily resolved through forums,” he says. “There is also a huge Microsoft user community that shares solutions, helpful hints, and experiences.”
Meanwhile, the new Microsoft technology has also enabled Denton to double his coverage of indie festivals and performances and to spend more time adding blogs, interviews, and reviews.
Denton’s passion and access to new technology continue to fuel his successful promotion of the work of hundreds of nonprofit theatre companies to an audience of 3 million people annually — all at no cost to the nonprofit theatres themselves. “Thanks to Microsoft and the TechSoup donation program, we’re able to optimize the websites so they are more secure, easier to use, and able to support even more artists than ever before.”
Mark Denton and NYTE managing director, Rochelle Denton, in Times Square. (photo credit: Daniel Talbott)
More about nonprofit software donations from Microsoft
Do you work with a nonprofit? The Microsoft nonprofit software donation program, which is operated in partnership with TechSoup provides software donations to eligible nonprofit organizations around the world. Find out more at: http://www.microsoft.com/ngo.