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!

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