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!