UPDATE: Welcome, NYPost readers! In case this is the first time you've visited the site... hi. My name is Isaac Butler. I'm a theatre director and a freelance writer. This blog focuses on theatre + politics, with lots of pop culture digressions and, when it's tennis season, the occasional paean to Roger Federer. Hope you enjoy the site, and please subscribe to our RSS feed! . I also co-run another site called Critic-O-Meter which is sort of like Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic for NY Theatre reviews.
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
You know what's not on that list? Twitter. Facebook. The internets. Beer pong nights. Those are marketing channels, we'll get to how to do those better in a moment.
Now for those of you who say: WILD SPECULATION! I will say: CORALINE! That show extended before it was reviewed, largely because of Neil Gaiman and Stephin Merritt fans. If it had gotten better reviews after opening, it probably would've kept going and been a bigger hit. But that initial audience bump was largely made up of people who don't usually go to see MCC shows.
But the truth of the matter is, and this only gets reinforced the more I see these panels and take part in these conversations:
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.