I wrote a blog post at the beginning of the semester about not being apprehensive of creating theatre for a teenage audience. I stand by my ideas and finding myself returning to these thoughts and being able to articulate why I find it so important to make theatre available for emerging adults and artists.
Last week our class read In the Intersection by Diane Ragsdale (Here is a great article she wrote for HowlRound explaining her work in the conference and on this book) and subsequently had her visit our class to discuss the themes in the book further. I have been mulling over much of our conversation and especially the conversations about what is missing. All week I’ve been thinking and I keep coming back to the same thing.
Each year a new influx of artists are coming into their own in the world and bringing with them all of their passion and ideas. These artists have found theatre one way or another and have chosen it for their life. But art can’t just be for other artists. A graduating class can’t just make art for the other members of their graduating class.
So much of the conversation around theatre now falls to the question: how do we engage audiences to increase their participation in theatre?
Youth culture is such a strong dominating force in the world today. Some of the biggest culture phenomenon in the last couple years have focused around the energy and obsessiveness of teens; Hunger Games, Twilight, One Direction, ect. I’m not saying “look at this art of teenager’s obsessions!” But these are a group of people who love things with all their heart. This is the age where they are making their own decisions about what they like and what atmosphere they want to be around.
I was at the Huntington’s wonderful production of Betrayal by Harold Pinter last semester and stood up before the show started and looked around. My friend and I were hands down the youngest people their by at least twenty years.
Where are the young people? On the computer, on Netflix, tweeting on their phones?
Matthew Welch wrote a post recently about Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brain and how theatre can be a break from the associative world of clicking hyperlinks.
I feel as if a critical audience mass is potentially being ignored. A group of people with so many stories and passions that should be able to see expressed on an important platform of the highest quality.
Because I want to get young people excited about the theatre.
Where I grew up there isn’t a culture of regional theater. I became passionate through the theatre I created myself and through the theatre I saw of my peers all around south east Asia. I miss the energy and excitement of what an event that was.
I want to make theatre that creates a space where theatre can come alive with passion, and where teens can feel welcomed to tell their stories.
I love the idea of an ensemble of artists who work together over and over so that audience members will come back to see actors they love and form bonds with the art of theatre.
I remember in middle school, looking up to high school actors, the beautiful Nick Mitchel from Trinidad and Tobago, the hilarious and talented Natasha Atkinson truly inspired to be like them one day. These where the people that inspired me to get into theater. That allowed me to see the magic.
These may be intangible ideas as of now, but I know where I want to start to find my way to connect audiences back to the joy of theatre. I am passionate about filling this gap, getting young voices heard, and not in a way that says your stories should be pushed to high school stages. The art I make isn’t for me, it’s for whatever audience I feel should be exposed to this world. I want that audience to be people who are just coming into their own as human beings. What a special, worthwhile time.