Monday, August 24, 2009

A Dying Breed? Au contraire. Theatre audiences live.

After a theatre student told me he was going to see Bye Bye Birdie on Broadway for just $20 --with Gina Gershon as Rose and John Stamos as Albert-- I began to rethink some basic assumptions about older theatre audiences, and if young people attend theatre, or have an interest in the stage. Behind the scenes, directors and producers have been shaking their heads and wringing their hands about a dying audience. But I don't believe it. Here's why: young people have great opportunities to see theatre, and are introduced to the experience with school groups, or take advantage of great discounts. They catch the live theatre bug, but into their late twenties, thirties and forties, these young people become adults who are raising young families, caring for older parents, juggling careers, dealing with financial burdens. This demographic doesn't have time for entertainment! And it is far easier to schedule a last minute movie for $20 than it is to get tickets to a quality theatre production for much more money. I am convinced that these same people begin their return to theatre as their responsibilities ease and their wallets expand, and the demographic is admittedly an older one-- 45+? I do not think live theatre audiences will die. If we keep opportunities for youth available, they will feel the power of live theatre; we will raise another generation of performing arts supporters. And they will return, when their schedules and wallets allow, sometime in the distant future.

I also wondered what students prices for theatre are North of Boston productions? First off, those $20 tickets on Broadway are from, and they're for shows at Roundabout, and the discount applies up to age 35!!!

On the North Shore, your theatre options include Salem Theatre Company, Gloucester Stage, Merrimac Rep, The Actors' Studio of Newburyport at the Firehouse, Marblehead Little Theatre, and Summer Theatre at Salem, the professional troupe in residency summers at Salem State. Who am I missing? I know there are more.

Of course the colleges (Endicott, Gordon, Salem State College) have student productions, often directed by faculty, and these seem to be your best bet for a cheap ticket, and title choices tend to be more interesting than the blockbuster basics of for-profit theatres.

Student tickets at Endicott are a general price: $10.
At Gordon, pay what you can on mid-week nights! And $7 on Fri and Sat.
Salem State College theatre tickets are $10 for students.
All colleges are free for their own students with IDs.

Newburyport Firehouse appears to have the cheapest student prices, with shows ranging from $10-$15, followed by Summer Theatre at Salem's $15 admission, and Stoneham Theatre at $20. Merrimac Rep didn't list a student price, only a range from $26-$31, and students at Gloucester Stage will pay $32 to see a performance.

Long live the theatre, and take a young person to a live performance the next time you go!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Newburyport Walks the Walk

This I know for sure: where there is art, there's cheese. Oh come now, you know it's true! Maybe it's the philistine side of my arts administrator persona, but I know that even the hardiest of arts supporters sometimes needs a little wine and cheese to be enticed to take in an art gallery exhibit. So this Saturday, take advantage and browse more than thirteen open studios throughout the Newburyport ArtWalk. See new works and works in progress, New England themes, encaustic and mixed media, a juried show, jewelry and crafts. Cheese your way from gallery to gallery, starting and ending wherever you wish. You can even catch a pedicab if all your light refreshments start to leave you feeling...heavy.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Arnould Gallery is the essence of Marblehead

A little summer break from the blog, and it's clear that the arts North of Boston have not taken any break. It's been a feast to satisfy the art-starved! There was Summer Theatre at Salem's magnficent productions for their 15th season, Artists' Row in Salem is hopping, Salem Theatre Company presented Steve Martin's The Underpants, which is the best play title out there, isn't it? Saturdays in Derby Square have been filled with the sounds of Salem Jazz & Soul Fest series.

Marblehead celebrates summer every year with the Summer Jazz Fest, and an arts festival that leaves out no corner of the little coastal town. I was in Marblehead yesterday, adoring Washington street, from overflowing window boxes to black eyed susans popping through fence slats, to a strawberry scone at Foodies Feast (an artform worth mentioning!!). Across the street, I stopped in to the Arnould Gallery, where Gene Arnould, the founder of the Jazz Festival, runs an art gallery/frame shop that is simply the essence of Marblehead.

Gorgeous oils, humorous watercolors, unique collages, all of the art in the Arnould shares a common theme: New England coastal living, particularly in Marblehead. You'll recognize scenes from Redd's Pond, the lighthouse at Chandler Covey, Abbott Hall towering over the rest of the twon's landscape of Georgian homes in scenes for every season. And his artists are exquisite. I combed over each piece for nearly an hour, as though I were in a Marblehead history museum, choosing which piece of history to make mine. You have to be born and bred in Marblehead to call yourself a 'Header, but if you want to claim a piece of this heavenly spot, artwork from the Arnould is where to begin. Cheers to Gene for keeping the arts alive in downtown Marblehead!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Ovation for Obamas on Broadway

Ok, so the NEA doesn't exactly have the funding it deserves, but I can't help but say thanks to the President and the First Lady for reminding the nation that live theatre is a great option for date night. And, thanks also for reminding us that Broadway doesn't necessarily mean Cats. They saw an August Wilson play.

Is it me or does Broadway seem a little less fearful of taking on the heavy hitter playwrights these days? We know how tempting it is to produce Guys and Dolls when we've had enough of Guys and Dolls... so thanks Broadway for being fearless in a fearful time. It seems to me that people are spending money on what they value-- and quality theatre is on that list. And the Obamas reminded us that compelling theatre can be a sexy night out. So as women purchase Michelle's J Crew clothes and work out their arms, let's hope that our lovers come home with theatre tickets for date night... and maybe, just maybe the President's trip to Broadway will remind him of the value of the arts. For now, the commercial was a good one!

Friday, May 29, 2009

How to Defend the Arts during Economic Crisis

It doesn't really matter what kind of economic state the country is in. Whether we're basking in the benefits of a dot com bubble or we're swimming against the tide of a tidal wave of economic loss, the cliche is that of the penniless poet, right? The starving artist? And the same may be true of arts organizations, or at least, that's the way we talk to one another as we see the organizations of our fellow artistic friends falter and close. So how do we talk to those who do not innately understand the value of the arts in order to protect the arts? It makes me think of Politicians are from Venus, Artists are from Mars. The newest defense-- a solid and logical one-- has its benefits, and only a few concerns.

Tying the arts to the economy is an eye-opener for those who are committed to the bottom line as the ultimate qualifier for success. When the owner of Prince of Pizza on Route 1 explains that hundreds of school children stop at Prince after morning matinees at the North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, and now, without NSMT, pizza would stand to lose profits... well, all of a sudden the arts make "cents." The phrase "dinner and theatre" is one of economic stimulus. And beyond the audience, theatres purchase textiles, lumber, lights, microphones, print and marketing, and on and on. And with regional organizations popping up to promote and foster the Creative Economy, suddenly Mars and Venus are speaking a common language.

But will we forget our language of origin? We still have an important message to convey, while we forage for what we need to survive. The arts are not a luxury, not an indulgence, not extra. Arts are the sustenance of our souls. It is the place where humans connect: emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, holistically. Music, theatre, dance, art, writing-- these endeavors challenge us to define our human existence, and to find connections across cultures, and within the individual. It does all that, and pays for the pizza.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Virtuoso Ukelele? Yup.

Ahhh, this is the kind of arts programming that makes me tick. And I think it's the freshness of program that audiences come out for. Jake Shimabukaru has been at the Firehouse in Newburyport before, so he's developed a cult following here just like anywhere. He impresses his audience with fingers on strings that can play anything. And play anything is what he does: jazz, blues, funk, classical, bluegrass, folk, flamenco, and rock. Jake’s mission is to show everyone that the ukulele is capable of so much more than only the traditional Hawaiian music many associate it. It makes an audience laugh, smile, shake heads, drop jaws, and applaud because they feel compelled to, not because they should.

Jake has performed with Diana Krall, Bobby McFerrin, John Hiatt, Victor Wooten, Les Paul, Stephen Bishop, John Craven, Hot Buttered Rum, Honolulu Symphony, Mista D of Nashville’s MuzikMafia, and more.

Run to get tickets in advance for this! June 24 at 7 & 9 pm.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Rockport Chamber Music Festival

What is it about this coastal town that has drawn painters, sculptors, jewelry makers to its North of Boston nook? It is storybook picturesque, and when you add the boutiques and studios of so many types of artists, there's plenty of stim for the creative mind (and purse, of course). Then! Add some music to the mix-- not just any music, but perhaps the premiere chamber music festival in the country, now in its 28th season. The Rockport Chamber Music Festival is a biggie, so when you plan that day trip to Rockport, plan on purchasing a ticket to one of these amazing performances. This knock-out concert series under the leadership of Artistic Director and pianist David Deveau features classical to contemporary performances by internationally acclaimed musicians and ensembles. The Festival programs, noted for musical breadth, depth, and range, draw capacity audiences each season at the Rockport Art Association. You can take it in as a member of the audience, attend lectures, and there are family programs to bring the kiddos.

Rockport Art Association
12 Main Street
Rockport, MA 01966
Phone: 978-546-6604
Start Date: 06/04/2009
End Date: 07/02/2009