In December, I wrote a blog post about a show I went to see that was well attended, but the median age of those present was in the 40-50 range. A big issue for a lot of theatre companies right now is looking to the future, and trying to figure out how we can build new audiences, specifically younger audiences. Diane Ragsdale’s keynote address Surviving the Culture Change, which I wrote about on Monday, has some specific ideas. And here are a few more:
First up, from the UK: A Night Less Ordinary offers free theatre tickets to those who are under 26. An initiative of the Arts Council of England, it’s meant to help build younger audiences. Launched in February 2009, the scheme offers thousands of free tickets to theatre events including comedy, tragedies, musical theatre, dance, modern mime, plays, circus and much more. More than 200 theatres across England are participating.
On a similar theme, but closer to home: Free Night of Theatre took place on October 16, 2008. More than 650 theatres nationwide, in the States, held free performances that night, to introduce themselves to people who perhaps had never seen theatre before. Hosted by the Theatre Communications Group, “Free Night is aimed at people who can (and do) become paying customers, while still successfully reaching groups that are currently under-represented in theatre audiences across the country.” Nothing on the website indicates plans for 2009, but it’s still early in the year.
Also from the UK, Up… Up… and a Play! To celebrate its thirtieth anniversary, The Gate Theatre sent invitations that included a red balloon to its mailing list. The idea was for people to receive the balloon, take a digital photo of it, then upload it to a Flickr page with thier name, location and story. The photos are now part of a free exhibition at The Gate. Click here to read more.
Locally, there are a few programs to try to entice the younger generation into the theatre. The Vancouver East Cultural Centre has a Telus Youth Pass, which allows those aged 12-19 to get into any Clutch shows for free. In addition, The Cultch has a youth program that assists young people to write, direct and produce their own work. Many theatre companies in Vancouver participate in the “I Go” program that allows high school students to get into shows for $5.
What kind of initiatives are your theatre companies implementing to engage with new audiences?