When the conversation turns to the shortcomings of contemporary theatre, many concerns are raised about how future generations will carry the banner and keep the American theatre alive. Many believe that when this older current audience of theatre is no longer around, the theatre will whither and die.
However, the article reports that the number of Millenials who are involved in culture and the arts is on the upswing, higher in some areas than Baby Boomers. The article and the study state that
“Boston Millennials hold a deep, even ‘traditional’ view of the role of culture in society; like Boomers (50-69) and Pre-War, they believe that the primary roles of cultural organizations are to educate, contribute to the greater good of society and conserve and take care of art. In fact, more than four in five Millennials visit the MFA, Boston at least once per year.”
Cue the Celebration:
This report indicates that we are now ushering in a generation of people who are culturally engaged in society. We are welcoming a group of people who have acknowledged the importance of arts and want to participate. In a time of pessimism and a generation who seem unbreakably cynical, there are young people out there who still give a damn about what we do.
So we find ourselves now at an exciting possibility. We have people who are interested, now what do we do with it.
The study also states that young people are more likely to use cultural activity as more an escape from the structured stress filled day to day lives we experience. The instinct I have is to say “We must have programming that can be used as an escape! We must not present the real problems of today! People want a break!”. And that impulse is wrong.
The beauty of what we have right here is a group of people who are willing to listen to what we have to say. The best thing to do is to say something. Anything. Anything that is important to the lives, to the future of the people coming to the theatre.
Regional Theatre’s typically program a season based on getting a paying audience. A subscriber. However, most people who can pay for a theatre subscription aren’t the up and coming youth of today, but an older, established audience. The programming is geared to the older audience, the older audience attends, the young people feel isolated and don’t attend the theatre, so the theatre programs for its mostly older audience. Its a vicious circle that will not end.
So what is the solution? The solution lies in the theatres themselves. Is it possible to program one show per season that may not bring in the Benjamin’s but will get younger audiences engaged in your work? Or continue to program middle of the road seasons that will not engage either audience fully.
People are listening. What do we want to say?