Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Could Theatre Learn From Politics?

I posted a blog, not that long ago, about theatre needing to reach out to younger audiences. Well it seems like theatre isn’t the only one looking to mobilize a younger audience because politics is now jumping on the 18-35 demographic bandwagon.

This morning I jumped in my car to head out to an appointment. I turned on the radio in my underground parkade and the fuzzy, crackling voice coming from the speaker sounded like the all too familiar voice of Gordon Campbell. I thought it couldn’t possibly be him because at that moment my radio was tuned to 94.5 The Beat and their morning show with Kid Carson. This show is decidedly marketed towards the young, mainstream, top 40’s loving crowd (No judgment here. I am one of THOSE people). As I drove up through the concrete towards the grey-blue sky the voice on the radio became crystal clear and I realized that, yes, in fact, it was most definitely Gordon Campbell. Live on the The Kid Carson show. I nearly died from shock.

[IMPORTANT: This is by no means an endorsement of any one political party just an observation on the state of politics]

Now, I believe this could be a first. I have been listening to various Top 40 radio stations since I was 10 and throughout all that time, not once has a politician come on the radio to talk during an election, let alone the Premier of British Columbia. Back in the early 90’s I used to tape the top 8 at 8 off LG73 (God, that sentence dates me), then throughout high school it was Z95.3 (before it became Crave and now Virgin) and about 3-4 years ago 94.5 The Beat took over as the #1 Top 40’s/Hits radio station.

Seems, the times they are a changin’.

We started seeing it happen in November with the American elections and the inauguration of President Obama. According to an article on msnbc.com the “Youth Vote may have been key in Obama’s win”. In 2004, 20.1 million 18- to 29-year-olds voted. In this past election, 2008, at least 50 percent more young people voted than they did in the 2004 election in every state except New York, which stayed flat. In some states, voter turnout among 18- to 29-year-olds doubled or tripled. How did this happen? With organizations like Rock the Vote, whose mandate is “building political power for young people”, making voting a cool thing to do. They had celebs and rock stars, from Leonardo Dicaprio to Snoop Dog to Bono promoting the importance of getting your vote on. Rock the Vote "uses music, popular culture and new technologies to engage and incite young people to register and vote in every election" AND, they sell cool rock n’ roll style t-shirts and merchandise.

President Obama, himself, also rocked the new technology. He got himself on Facebook and “through a steady stream of texts and Twitter” Obama managed “to excite young voters by meeting them where they live — online”. Hmmmm…looks like Premier Gordon Campbell is taking a page from the book of President Obama. He’s definitely trying to “Rock the Vote” by chatting live on the radio with youngsters like Kid Carson and co-host/sidekick Nira Aurora. What were they discussing? Social Media. The conversation started with Kid and Nira asking the Premiere about the NDP candidate who put “inappropriate pictures” on facebook and ended with the fact that he, Gordon Campbell, was on Twitter. Now if that isn't a turning of the tides I don't know what is.

And, I hate to say it, but maybe we could actually learn a thing or two from these politicians? Could you imagine the voice theatre could have if we managed to mobilize young people the way politics has?

~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer [who will “Rock the Vote” on May 12th. You should too.]

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