“What’s gone wrong with theater? It isn’t a matter of quality control. I’ve been reviewing performances from coast to coast since 2004, and I continue to be impressed by what I see. Instead, what I’m hearing from regional artistic directors is that they’re being slammed by the on-demand mentality…”
Archives for December 26, 2013
I’ve written a special essay for today’s Wall Street Journal about the problem of shrinking audiences for live theater in America–and what to do about it:
The house lights fade to black. The room falls still as an actor steps from the wings and speaks the simple words that set a plot in motion: “O for a Muse of fire.” “Yes, I have tricks in my pocket, I have things up my sleeve.” “This play is called ‘Our Town.'” Suddenly the outside world vanishes and you’re swept into a parallel universe of excitement and adventure, poetry and magic, fear and hope.
That’s what it feels like to go to the theater and see a great play. But when did you last do so? A week ago? A year? Or do you now prefer to stay home and watch cable television, or use Netflix to stream a movie?
If so, you’re one of the reasons why live theater is in trouble.
Take a look at the NEA’s latest Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, the most statistically reliable study of its kind. Not only did “non-musical play attendance” drop to 8.3% from 12.3% of U.S. adults between 2002 and 2012, but attendance at musicals fell, to 15.2% from 17.1%, the first time the latter figure has declined since 1985….
I don’t know whether watching a play on TV will persuade a significant number of viewers to go out and see one in person for the first time. The theatrical experience, after all, is unique unto itself. It’s radically different from watching a movie, or even an HD simulcast. People who go to the theater regularly take that difference–the immediate physical presence of flesh-and-blood actors–for granted. Yet it’s the main reason why old-fashioned low-tech live theater is still and will always be worth seeing, even in the age of Netflix.
The trick is to treat it not as a problem but as a marketing opportunity–something that can be sold….
Read the whole thing here.
Here’s my list of recommended Broadway, off-Broadway, and out-of-town shows, updated weekly. In all cases, I gave these shows favorable reviews (if sometimes qualifiedly so) in The Wall Street Journal when they opened. For more information, click on the title.
• A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder (musical, PG-13, reviewed here)
• Macbeth (Shakespeare, PG-13, closes Jan. 12, reviewed here)
• Matilda (musical, G, nearly all performances sold out last week, reviewed here)
• No Man’s Land/Waiting for Godot (drama, PG-13, playing in rotating repertory through Mar. 2, most performances sold out last week, reviewed here)
• Once (musical, G/PG-13, reviewed here)
• Twelfth Night (Shakespeare, G/PG-13, closes Feb. 16, all performances sold out last week, reviewed here)
• Avenue Q (musical, R, adult subject matter and one show-stopping scene of puppet-on-puppet sex, reviewed here)
• The Commons of Pensacola (drama, PG-13, closes Jan. 26, reviewed here)
• The Fantasticks (musical, G, suitable for children capable of enjoying a love story, reviewed here)
• Hamlet/Saint Joan (drama, G/PG-13, remounting of off-Broadway production, performed in rotating repertory, closes Feb. 2, original production reviewed here)
• Juno and the Paycock (drama, G/PG-13, far too dark for children, closes Jan. 26, reviewed here)
• The Night Alive (drama, PG-13, extended through Feb. 2, reviewed here)
Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol, the first animated Christmas special produced specifically for TV, originally broadcast on NBC in 1962. The script is by Barbara Chain and the songs are by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill:
“The affirmative of affirmatives is love.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Success”