Archive for the ‘Theater Audiences’ Category

A Not-So-Impossible Dream

June 27th, 2008 1 comment

I opened the July/August American Theatre to an article about a theater in Maryland that partnered with three nearby colleges to create a voucher program.

The article, A Not-So-Impossible Dream, by Eliza Bent, discusses the process used by the Marlyand Ensemble Theatre: the theater sends vouchers to the colleges; the colleges distribute them to faculty, students, or staff; the student (or whomever) shows up at the theater and gives the voucher and gets in free; the theater then bills the colleges for the cost of a reduced ticket–for the colleges the money actually comes out of the student life budget.

This is one way that this theater has been encouraging younger people to come to shows and also, that the colleges have been encouraging students to see theater–especially in programs where it is important and can be tied to curriculum (an excellent example being that con-con is putting up the Pulitzer Prize-winning Buried Child in the fall) which is always good for a literature department!

As the article rightly points out, this would be one way to combat the ‘gerification’ of modern American theaters. For convergence, as I’m learning, this is one of the main challenges for several reasons: first, it is difficult (read, impossible) to sustain operations from ticket sales alone–theaters need investment from their community and this is difficult for con-con as its appeal is not to this deep-pocketed, older market which seems to relish a more conservative type of theater, in both content and structure; second, the type of theater that con-con produces is in-your-face, usually multimedia enhanced–a type that should appeal to a younger crowd; and third, con-con runs plays that are generally out of the main stream–contemporary, experimental, ‘dangerous’, and usually regional premieres (or in my case, a world-premiere).

I have no illusions about how difficult it would be to set up something similar here, but am thinking about trying to push it with as many people as I know. Obviously, I am interested in doing this on behalf of convergence, but the fact is, this is something that would be great in Cleveland more broadly. There is a density of both theaters and colleges here and I’m sure Karamu, CPT, Dobama, Bang and Clatter, the Play House, and even more would be interested. To use business parlance, it’s a win-win for everyone!

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