Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Declining attendance at the Rep

According to JS Online: "Declining attendance in the Quadracci Powerhouse and Stiemke theaters, particularly on weeknights, has led the Rep to shorten engagements in those venues. Powerhouse productions will run four weeks rather than five, and the Stiemke offerings will be trimmed by a few performances. Rep managing director Tim Shields said the reduction would result in an annual savings of about $100,000 and increase the size of the audience at the remaining performances, enhancing the theater-going experience. Members of the resident acting company will be under contract for the same number of weeks, and the new format will simplify rehearsal scheduling."

If the stackner cabaret audience is growing while the actual theatre attendance shrinks, what does that say about the Rep's target demographic? If my thoughts on the Rep's target demographic are correct (they don't actually like theatre, they just like the idea of "going to the theatre" and the status it affords them) then, naturally a cabaret show, with drinks, less substance (hula hoop sheboop?) will be more appealing to this audience. The rest of the Rep's season seems to be similarly scaled back artistically: lots of safe classics and low-commitment 1-person shows.
This kind of cowardly programming seems to be standard for local companies. I've heard so many stories about company directors who say: i don't like most of the shows we put up, but if I produced the plays I want to produce we'd go out of business. Guess what? You're slowly going out of business ANYWAY, the entire medium of theatre is going out of business.
That's part of what insurgent theatre is about, demonstrating that a new audience can be built, one that actually wants to see theatre, not just look like a patron of the arts.

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