Thursday, May 25, 2006

Good Shows

In my comments box, Alison writes:

Hmm. Last night I went to see a physical theatre show (a very classy one - if Kage Physical Theatre ever come your way, go see it). The set was a boxing ring, the theme was masculinity, the sound was inventive, the lighting fantastic, the movement/choreography beautiful, and the result so much more interesting than I had expected. The theatre (I guess, 200-300 seats? the format was different from usual) was packed to the gills with young people - even the balconies were full - theatre arts students etc, so around 16-18 - and when it finished they all went crazy, whooping and standing up and cheering.

I reckon that's how you "save" theatre - you put on good, live theatre that doesn't cheat people, that shows them how exciting theatre can be, and how honest, and make sure young people see it. And maybe then they'll come back.

Absolutely! Hear! Hear! Couldn't agree more! But... (you knew there had to be a but, right?) how many of those sixteen to eighteen year olds would have been in that theatre if tickets were, say, $50 each? An idea like pre-show ads, or pre-show endorsements of other shows, is a way of leveraging money so as to keep ticket prices low and accessible.

But the question I want to know the answer to is: how did this theatre get word out to this group of kids? And second, is there a way to reach that same group who aren't theatre arts students? As great as it is that these kids were seeing a play (and don't get me wrong: it IS great), from another perspective it is yet another example of artists theatre people playing theatre to other theatre people. How can we widen the circle?

You paint and exciting picture, Alison -- tell me more!


Alison Croggon said...

Hi Scott- they were all VCE students (Years 11&12 from high school). Which means their drama/theatre studies/English teachers are booking them into the Malthouse in droves as part of their curriculum. The Malthouse, as do most major companies here, run large educational programs - some specifically for theatre studies or drama (workshops and such like), some for English or English literature (mounting productions of particular plays).

If they like what they experience, it's an excellent thing. If they go and are bored to death, of course, it's going to be counter productive.

Scott Walters said...

Interesting. And are their admissions paid for by the school?

Michael Rice said...

Just was introduced to your blog. I like the direction you are going. I am trying to do similar things on my site, I am extremely interested in attracting a younger demographic to the theatre scene, and increasing the number of people attending theatre.

Keep up the good work

Alison Croggon said...

No (as I know, I have two teens) - they got special school rates and the parents pay. Maybe $A20, which would be about $US15.

The point is really that there are young urban people who routinely read, who buy zines, who take out dvds by Jim Jarmusch and other alternative film makers, who listen to interesting music and go to gigs. (At least, here there are, and I can only assume that it is the case elsewhere). Why don't they go to the theatre? Because what they are given is not as exciting and interesting as the books, films or music they immerse themselves in, all of which take feeling seriously. Young people are feeling people (this is why young people go nuts about my books - because they are honest about emotion, don't cheapen it). When feeling is taken seriously on stage, intellectually and aesthetically - I'm thinking now of Black Medea, a breathtaking adaptation of Medea done here last year as another example, or of contemporary cabaret, which is black, funny, moves from poignancy to irony and back again - those young people will sit there, riveted. They don't care if they don't quite understand it. They don't subscribe to seasons, they are sceptical about advertising, they have grown up in a world saturated with media and are alive to all its spin, and they listen to word of mouth. What they don't like is being patronised or bored. That's the audience theatre has to go for if it wants to survive.