Saturday, April 4, 2009

Popularizing Theatre for a Younger Audience

This is my mission in life. It isn’t called Twenty-Something Theatre for nothing. In the last couple months I have come across of few different articles that have addressed this issue but prior to that I haven’t heard many people talk about it. (But then again maybe I just live in a bubble). This idea, which really isn’t an “idea” at all but an absolute “necessity”, is the main reason I started this company 4 years ago.

Four years ago I was just your average mid twenty-something girl. Most of my non-theatre friends didn’t go to theatre much (unless it was one of my shows). My sister and her friends (all in their late teens at the time) didn’t go to “regular” theatre much either. Large scale, touring productions of “The Phantom of the Opera”? Yes, definitely! Your local theatre? No, not so much. My brother and his friends (in their early twenties) ditto. I think this speaks for a LARGE majority of people in their twenties.

So, what happens when the blue-rinse crowd that constitutes the majority of the crowds at some of our larger regional theatres (you know the ones) die off? Who will be in the audience? Rebecca Coleman started discussing this very issue in her blog, The Art of the Biz, after going to see a production of “The Drowsy Chaperone” at the Playhouse, called “Where is our future audience?”. I also went to see that production. Who did I go with? My parents. Enough said. Then I noted in an interview with Craig Hall (Question #7), on The Next Stage by Simon Ogden, that he also mentions this very thing. I thought to myself, holy crap, are people ACTUALLY starting to recognize that this is a very REAL issue that needs to be addressed. Then most recently I read another article called “Eat, Drink and Stage a New Play: 10 things theatre’s must do to save themselves” where #4 is Get Them Young.

If we don’t start thinking about ways to get the twenty-something crowd into the theatre NOW then down the road we may be very sorry indeed. It is all well and good to think of all the wacky, crazy, creative, out-there shows that would stimulate and satisfy us as artists BUT if we aren’t connecting with our audiences at a very real & emotional level, that makes them feel like they NEED to come back again, then there really isn’t much point. Our audiences are our bread and butter. If we aren’t creating theatre for them then who the heck are we doing it for?

~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer

4 comments:

  1. Hi Sabrina,

    How about:
    Get a Famous patron that they can relate to, just a name above the door helps, especially if they are cool.

    Find new works from around the world that engage with a younger audience.

    I was part of a regular acting group that met above a pub once a week, we got Terry Johnson as our patron and lots of top actors dropping in just by writing to them and asking for a Q&A above the pub. We brought in new writers, developed work and ended up producing 2 plays at the soho theatre. The regularity and relaxed atmosphere was crucial.

    Break down the barriers. If you're putting on a production, put on a comedy gig afterwards or a band, get a late license, produce it as a double bill.

    We use a lot of video footage to engage with younger audiences. It works really well for us as you can see: http://www.totallytheatre.com

    Good Luck!

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  2. I think for sure that Vancouver has a bit of an issue with theatre. Especially because it's not ingrained in what we talk about on a daily basis. But I admire your passion and tenacity, and I'm finding that many people are tired of doing the same things over and over again. And it's not they don't want to go, it's just hard to find these events in mainstream media. I'm hoping that this will continue to be a great success. If you ever need people to spread the word of your production, please feel free to contact me at my website. http://www.conversationarts.com. I don't go to theatre often, but I know a lot of people looking for alternatives on a weekend.

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  3. Hey, Sabrina;
    Your post made me think. Yeah, the Playhouse and the Arts Club have an older subscription base, but they also do shows that are more geared towards their subscription base.
    Younger companies like yours, and like ITSAZOO, who are also a group of twenty-something UVic grads, are trying to create theatre that is more relevant to the twenty-something crowd. And I see it working. No one's getting rich, yet, but there's space for growth and the time in which to accomplish it.
    I guess the message is: just keep making theatre!

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  4. Thanks to everyone for all the comments, the reactions and discussions!

    ~Sabrina

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