Pathways 2The word rolled off his tongue so easily, I almost didn’t catch it.

Steve Martin is the Managing Director of Childsplay, the renowned professional theatre company here in the Phoenix area whose chosen audience is children.

We were discussing the evolving nature of the cause of “audience development” and the various implications of its growing number of metaphors – pathways, on-ramps, entrances, channels, passages, approaches, avenues, openings and routes (to name but a few).

“You know,” he said as his eyes wandered upward in thought, “The limitation of all of those metaphors is that they reflect the increasingly antiquated expectation that audiences must always come to us.  Some of the most important audience development we do involves our shows performing in gymnacafatoriums all over the country.”

I admire that word.  I love what it represents.

It reflects the genuine, flexible and wholeheartedly outbound spirit of a passionate theatre company that understands that the pursuit of audience development isn’t merely a marketing initiative.  That unique word (a compilation of gymnasium, cafeteria & auditorium, in case you haven’t already figured it out) embodies the breadth and purposefulness of this company’s efforts to engage audiences in its live theatre experience wherever it can gather them.

Interesting Question:  Does YOUR organization employ a vocabulary that so keenly reflects it’s understanding and facility to address the pathways of audience engagement?

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  1. says

    I love seeing that word in print. As an acoustics consultant, we are often faced with the challenge of making these spaces appropriate for all of these uses. We are still waiting for the opportunity to build a gymnacafenatatorium like the one in “it’s a wonderful life” (I think) where the gym floor retracts to expose a pool and all of the dancers fall in.

    We embrace these opportunities for just this reason- it increases the chance that people who have nothing to do with the arts programs at a school will be aware of the activity in the arts. It is an invitation to participation.

    We are especially excited about the latest version being designed in Knoxville, Illinois with our partners BLDD architects. Perhaps we can find the avenue to tell that story she. It gets further along.

    Thanks for the article- it made me smile on my way to work!

  2. Carol Fineberg says

    Has anyone ever witnessed a performance in a gymnacafatorium? The smell of old sneakers? The smell of garbage yet to be collected from three periods of lunch? The echoing acoustics? The lack of comfortable or any seats for a performance that can hardly be heard “in the back?” Spare us these architectural inventions that offend the senses and insult the performers!

  3. says

    I have experienced hundreds of performances in gymnacafatoriums. And to Ms. Fineberg’s comments, yes, sometimes they are smelly, acoustically challenging and uncomfortable for those of us with boney bums. But to see the look on the student’s faces when the play starts and Tomas tells his story about his love of books or Vanessa talks about the death of her dad or Danny talks about living on the streets with his mom; or when Danilo declares his love of dance instead of fighting the bill. What we bring to the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people each year transcends a smelly gymnasium while transporting to new worlds, new thoughts, new ways to face a difficult world. Ou8r challenge is to overcome these constraints with professional artists, innovative theatrical designs, sound enhancement, while telling the best stories that are authentic to the lives of the young people in our audiences. To turn up our noses and turn away from these young people many of whom may never ever have the opportunity to see a professional stage performance ever again in their lives would be shameful. Instead, we plug our noses and deliver innovative and engaging theatre and I guarantee you, our ensemble of artists are never insulted!

    • Carol Fineberg says

      I do not doubt for a moment that what you are presenting to children are very special, very important experiences that should be supported wholeheartedly. I was, rather, trying to encourage in a roundabout way, architects and school districts to develop separate and appropriate venues for sports, eating and yes, performing arts companies, Three -in-one solutions are often poor design solutions and it is to your credit that whatever the venue, your people are always in top form. The kids, however, deserve well designed schools that include gyms, auditoriums with lights and sound systems, AND cafeterias (with facilities to cook healthy meals, I add hopefully).

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