Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Amen, Hallelujah, so on and so forth...

I've discovered a new blog to follow (not new to anyone else probably but new to me as I am a little slow on the uptake). One of the most recent posts on this blog is about getting young audiences into the theatre so you can see why it sparked my curiosity. If you have been reading my blog this will be obvious and if you haven't I won't take it personally (although I may secretly be shedding a single tear right at this very moment). The title of the post is "No-Brainer Secrets Revealed" and here's what he has to say:

"Went to a panel yesterday about theatre.

Want to guess what the discussion eventually focused on at length?

I'll give you a hint... it's the thing that all public conversations about theatre eventually gravitate to.

Still don't know?

Why, it's how to attract younger audiences, of course! With the sub-conversation how do we use the twitters and the facebooks and the internets to do it?

So I'm going to reveal, right now, the secret to getting young people to come to your theatre and see shows. Because it's a no-brainer and I'm tired of having this conversation (For reasons that should become obvious in a second). Here's the secret:

(1) Do work they want to see.

(2) Endeavor to do it well

(3) Offer it at a price point they will find reasonable

Amen! Hallelujah! And any and all other exaltations that would describe my enthusiastic agreement! From there he goes on to say why theatre companies talk but don't seem to act:

"Theater companies and producers for the most part do not want to do the above three things. What they want to do is do the same work and use marketing to trick younger audiences into thinking it's what they want to see.

So the next time we have this conversation... can we please have it honestly and start asking some more interesting questions, some more difficult questions? Questions like: Do you actually want younger audiences, or do you just want their money? or Would your theater company be able to sustain itself on a younger audience base? And if not, are you just fucked? Are you just riding it out for as long as possible knowing it's not going to work out in the long run?

Now let's say for a moment that you are a theater producer or larger theater and you want to do the above three things. You just don't know how. That's fine! Here's the secret to solving that problem:

There is probably a theater company in your area that is succeeding at doing those three things. Produce their next show in your space.

You know where this happens with some regularity? Chicago and D.C. Both quite healthy theatre towns with interesting, vibrant scenes with quite a bit of interplay between more established theaters and young up-and-comers. This is not a coincidence.

I'm sick of this shit. The answers aren't that hard, they're only hard because the answers are things that people don't really want to do, so they're trying to find ways to cheat. Well, I'm sorry, you can't cheat. It doesn't work that way.

And if you don't want to do that, that's okay. If you don't want to do that kind of work, that's okay. Just stop claiming you want younger audiences. You don't want them. You feel entitled to them. There's a difference. Be proud of the audience you have and keep making work for them. Do the work you actually believe in. That's okay, for the most part.

Just stop asking about twitter already.

All I have to add to that very honest and truthful statement is that the facts speak for themselves. Every year Twenty-Something Theatre grows it's audience. This year, as I already stated in an earlier post, we had an 88% audience attendance and 6 sold out shows. In the summer! A time that is traditionally not thought of as a good time to do theatre unless you are Bard on the Beach or some kind of outdoor roving show. Young people showed up in droves. Why? Because we do items 1-3 on the list above.

It's a No-Brainer.

~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer


  1. Oh we need to find you a few others to read then :)

  2. We were comp'd into The Miracle Worker last night. It is a complete failure on all three points. House was about 25% (and how much of that was comp'd?).

    The playhouse deserves to lose funding based on their play choice.