Okay, maybe a little over the top, but if you have ever managed a theatre, produced or directed a play, if you’re a veteran or aspiring actor, or if you love the theatre, this issue has come up. Indeed, theatre is the one place, realistically, where it ain’t about the money. It should be, to sustain good theatre and encourage fresh visions, but at the end of the day, it is always about the audience. More directly, it is about getting an audience in the door.
I am no stranger to Theatre. I have had two successful plays, have written and performed some improv and sketch comedy, and write about Theatre now and again. As the host of a growing radio program dedicated to covering the Arts I also have the pleasure of speaking with actors, producers and directors. If there is one common issue it is about getting people into the show. Not for all theatres, such as those with bigger marketing budgets, although every Theatre will struggle at some point.
I’ve been to more than one show in which the house is virtually empty; sometimes a parent and a few friends-often at the compliments of the Theatre. That is as painful for the audience as it is for the actors to step out on stage and give it their all to a virtually empty theatre. owing to the passion and professionalism of stage actors, I have attended several nearly empty theatres only to find actors coming to the stage as if it was standing room only.
Recently on the radio show, (Sundays at 1pm on am1590 WCGO in Chicago) Kerri and I talked with a local veteran actor, George Manisco. That conversation grew beyond the show. George knows that we want to help accomplish something in the community. We would love to strengthen and deepen an appreciation for the Arts. Funny the places constructive conversations may lead.
This morning I received an email from George who wrote:
“I would Like to talk about how inner city kids can get to see plays. I had heard that Bank of America gave tickets to students at St. Malachy students to see “Hamilton” that is the school that I mentor at. Maybe theatres do this a lot. Anyways, would like to talk about how inner city kids can see plays.”
Needless to say, that got the rusting gears in my head smoking. I am envisioning a program in which small local theatres can apply to be part of a program which encourages young people to attend plays, as a class or with parents and earn points, which can then be redeemed for credits. Each student would have to write a short essay or formatted critique. Sort of like an off campus class.
The ideas are just in their infancy, and I will be reaching out to the City, schools and to the theatre community for their input. What’s the worst than could happen…filled theatre’s throughout Chicagoland? Wouldn’t that be a terrible thing?