by third planet living
I went to see a little theatre this week, and as usual scanned the audience for a quick and dirty demographics check up. The results:
90% of the audience was over the age of 55 (most I would say were over the age of 65), the majority were women, and all but four people were Caucasian. What can I say, I counted.
As far as the younger crowd was concerned, there were four of us twenty-somethings and two couples that I would guess to be in their late thirties/early forties.
And no this wasn’t a Sunday matinee, it was Friday night.
Granted, I’m talking about one performance, in one theatre, in one town. But as most of you have probably experienced, I could have taken a snapshot of this audience and plugged it into any theatre, in any town, and it would be an accurate portrayal of that theatre’s audience at any given time. This is something that really fascinates me. Younger people rarely step foot in a theatre, (unless they work in theatre or have a friend in the show), and there seems to be almost zero ethnic diversity.
Why why why?
Is theatre too expensive? Are people just not hearing about it? Are theatres not presenting plays that appeal to younger audiences or people in minority groups? What’s going on?
I know that several theatres (San Diego Rep jumps to mind) have implemented strong outreach programs with the intention of connecting with different ethnic groups. That’s awesome, but are these new theatre patrons sticking around all season? Will they come back next year, or are they only coming once to see one specific show? How do we entice younger folks to join their parents and grandparents and hop aboard the theatre train?
I can’t help but think… We have houses full of Baby Boomers, and what happens ten or twenty years down the line? Maybe I’m overreacting; maybe we’ll be alright. Maybe there is some natural process that occurs when we enter into our golden years, that makes live theatre seem like a swimmin’ hole in mid-July. Irresistible. But I have my doubts.
I want to know why people choose other entertainments over theatre. I want to find out if the folks who are regular patrons went to the theatre as children and young adults. I have a few theories based on the economic and war histories of the United States, (and various other factors), but I’ll save it for next week.
For now, I’d like to know… is this your experience of theatre? Or have you experienced more diversity than I have?