However, a more interesting perspective was offered in the comments below the original posting:
Hey IB, while I respect all that you do with this blog and am happy to see you getting back to more theater (love the critic posts), I have to say that I really disagree with you on this, and I'll be okay if I'm the only one. I’ve disagreed with others before who’ve said the same thing as you here, so it may not be new for me to be the one thinking outside the box on this.
Unfortunately, I think I know the #1 best way to attract today’s young folks to see more theater: wait 10 years for them to grow up!
Seriously, young people don’t want to see others in the spotlight. The majority want to see THEMSELVES in the spotlight. That’s why I think all arts-in-ed should be participatory. Fund arts in schools for young people to Do It, not see it. When they grow up, this will pay bigger dividends, cuz they’ll know more about it and feel more connected to it. (This is what baseball has taught me – I grew up playing Little League, not going to Pro’ games, but I love those Yankees today.)
When you were a kid did you really want to watch grown-ups come to your school and act like animals or trains? Well, maybe you did, but I couldn’t sit still that long. I got in trouble for running onstage to be the 8th dwarf, cuz I wanted to be in the show, not watching. And this is even more true for teens – it’s THEIR time to shine.
If we do your #1 with artists of that audience’s age, #2 will be even harder to achieve. Maybe if the creators of Coraline were 10 years older they might have created a better show, with better reviews, that would have run longer. But I’ll bet you that if they were 10 years older, they’d be writing about something else. So, you’re only going to get that audience to a better-endeavored show once they’re adults.
Your post acts like these regional theaters aren’t trying this. They are. It’s just not working. I’ll guess it’s because they can’t do your #3 without going broke. We’ve both been to enough panels, tcg conferences, etc. to know that for you to suggest otherwise is what’s not honest. And who are these mystery “succeeding” theater companies you reference, and if they’re so successful, why haven’t they been covered on these blogs (not Chicago, but I don’t hear from many DC blogs)?
This is a decades-old question, and even the young companies I know struggle with it. Hell, it’s hard to just get your young friends to show up. And if you’re answers were correct, something like Passing Strange would still be running on Bway. Hardly. And although young audiences put Rent and Spring Awakening over the top, it was still grown-ups who made up the audience base.
I just gotta reject the premise of your question: with so many new adults (from boomers to pop. growth to those just living longer), why is it that we need to chase young people (with neither the desire nor the disposable income) to attend our shows? Seriously, why?
Come to think of it, maybe you’re right: let’s just stop claiming that we want them. It’s okay with me, too.
While it may not be entirely the answer or even the truth, it certainly is an interesting perspective and helps shed some light on why theatre audiences reflect the demographics they do. But is there more to this debate? What do you think?