The number of stage performances and theater companies in and around Washington went up last year, while overall attendance dropped 1.9 percent, according to statistics from the Helen Hayes Awards organization. Despite that dip, 2007 was the busiest year since the first tally in 1985, the Hayes group said, with 67 professional companies presenting 8,050 performances of 454 shows. That is an increase from 2006 of three companies, 402 performances and 20 shows.Audiences shrinking while performances increase -- not a particularly good formula. So Washington theatre artists, frustrated with the difficulties, will likely make the even less rational decision to pack up and head for NYC. Heck, why be out of work in DC when you can be out of work in NYC?
Metropolitan Washington is a busier theater district than the Chicago area, according to Hayes Executive Director Linda Levy Grossman. Though Chicago has more theater companies, "the D.C. area still does more work," she noted via e-mail.
Even so, derrieres in seats numbered about 36,000 fewer in 2007, the Hayes staff reported, with 1,908,557 people attending shows. The dip in comparison with 2006 adds more weight to the conventional wisdom that the audience isn't quite keeping up with the burgeoning theater community. Attendance also dipped by about 1.2 percent from 2005 to 2006, much less than the 8.5 percent drop the previous year.
I continue to be baffled by the stubborn refusal to acknowledge that the law of supply and demand applies to theatre as well as any other product in the world. The Cinderella story is a powerful deterrent to rational thinking, that's for sure. But I'm sure the theatre owners, resume photographers, newspaper ad salesmen, and brochure printers will be happy to have your business. Just keep maxing out those credit crads -- you'll make it any day now.