Saturday, September 27, 2008

1 million free theatre tickets

The more I read about the theatre and the more I go to the theatre, the more I realize that the topic of demographics, i.e., how to get more young people in seats, is a neverending topic of discussion. So I thought this was an interesting story:

Starting in February, the British government is planning to distribute 1 million free theatre tickets over the next two years to people age 26 and under. About 100 publicly financed venues across the country will set aside a certain number of tickets on the same night, available on a first-come, first-served basis.

“A young person attending the theatre can find it an exhilarating experience, and be inspired to explore new horizons. But sometimes people miss out on it because they fear it’s ‘not for them’. It’s time to change this perception,'' says Andy Burnham, Britain's secretary for culture, media and sport. Burnham added, "It will be good for theaters who will see their audience broaden, and it will be good for actors who play at their best when performing to a full house.''

The program's $4.6-million cost is being borne by England's Arts Council, the national development agency for the arts, which gets its money from the government and the United Kingdom's National Lottery.

According to the Council's Web site: "Our aim is for everyone in the country to have the opportunity to develop a rich and varied artistic and creative life. We will ensure that more high quality work reaches a wider range of people – engaging them as both audience and participants. We will support artists and arts organisations to take creative risks and follow new opportunities."

Of course, the plan isn't without its critics. Some say the money would be better spent on more pressing financial needs, or on arts education. They note that many theatres already offer heavily discounted tickets. And some critics fear that it won't necessarily expand the audience, since many of those who will take advantage of the free tickets may already be theatre fans.

Okay, those are all perfectly valid points. But even though I'm way over 26 and I'm not in England, I still think it's a pretty cool idea.


Dale said...

It sounds like a great idea to me too. It'd at least generate lots of interest and who knows? It could translate into huge dividends long term.

Esther said...

Yeah, I agree. I mean, I understand the criticism - will you end up preaching to the converted, so to speak, or will new theatergoers take advantage of the offer?

But goodness knows the theatre needs to attract a younger audience. At a lot of the shows I see, the audience does tend to skew older. Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course, but it would be nice to have a wider age range.

One of the things I noticed from going to the filmed performance of "Rent" is how young the audience for the movie was. I mean, a lot of those people must have been in kindergarten when Rent opened on Broadway!