NPR reports that Broawday is surging towards a healthy 2008-09 season. Many new shows are opening this season and ticket sales are doing well. Last Tuesday Chicago's NPR station, WBEZ, reported that Chicago theatres are experiencing no bad effects of the economic downturn either.
The Chicago report also stated that some theatre-goers are likely to save money on their tickets by seeking out performances at some of the smaller theatres rather than going to the more established Loop theatres. However, their recent success on Broadway has created a buzz that should generate excitement around their current seasons as well so hopefully they won't be affected with smaller houses.
Something both reports mentioned is people will need some kind of release and theatre provides this escape from the dismal turns of Wall Street and the economy. I hope that this is true and Americans do use the theatre as something that can impact their lives and make it better. We need something authentic and real.
This ties in again with the discussion of theatre in a digital age.
One of the reasons that sporting events continue to do well is they are real. It is a real experience that is unfolding in front of you (whether it is live or on the television). People can interact and engage with that. There are hopes and surprises. All in all the experience is very exciting. Someone once compared American Football to the Roman Gladiators. The life and death combat may not be a comparison but their epic importance to their cultures may not be all that far off.
Theatre too can have this impact. It is competing with so much in the digital media. Perhaps this economic scare will realign our priorities and point us to something more engaging and visceral to help us get through the mess. Theatre perhaps can reemerge as a shining start in defining our national identity.