Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Over the Hill?

Just today I was talking to one of my local theatre associated about how one of the local theatres in this area has been skewing towards the older generation in regards to plays they produce. This entire season, in fact, every audition call they send out mentions characters no younger than 60 in most cases. I found it problematic and so did my associate.

I don't mean any disrespect to this company, as I have done things here and there for them. I like the venue and I like the people there. It's just that I think both they, and the community as a whole, would be served better if they broadened their offerings a bit.

I'm not picking on them, though. Other companies in other places make similar decisions in regards to material, and not just in the age department. This type of selectivity can be hurtful to a company's brand appeal.

A company may always do shows that have 90% women casts. Or perhaps their shows by definition require white casts most of the time. Or the opposite of the problem I mentioned when I started; a company may never produce plays with people older than 22. Whatever the demographic being catered to may be, and whatever the impetus is for doing so, (usually an effort to sell more tickets), a theatre is better off with an eclectic mix of material. At least more eclectic than 6 or so shows in a row of "nobody under 60".

I think there are ways to do this and be more appealing. The first would be to give younger people a chance to play older people. Find a reliable make-up artist, and give it a try. Acting is acting, after all, and I never did like the near-ubiquitous notion that the young need not apply when the character ages are older.

A second possibility. Some theatres exist specifically to cater to one demographic. Entire playhouses exist to exhibit say, the work of  Jewish playwrights, actors, and stories. And I think that's fantastic. In fact, we may need more such places. To connect this with my original thoughts, what if some community theatres that tend to cater to a certain demographic anyway, reshape their mission statement to be congruent with that? I think having a local, non-profit theatre dedicated to exploring issues of the older generation would serve quite an interesting purpose. But for the sake of fairness, that should be in their company name somewhere, as well as their mission statement. So long as a company claims to be a community theatre, all sections of the community in which the theatre appears ought to be represented in the material produced.

This may mean that some shows are not full houses. But to me, an effort to produce plays that appeal to different segments of the local population, even though they be a minority, shows great artistic courage and altruism. What a company may lose in ticket sales this year, it may gain back in years to come once word spreads that they are an eclectic destination. On the other side of the coin, going all in and dedicating everything you do to one demographic in an official capacity may have the same effect, once word got out.

Some may call that a pipe dream. I don't. But say what you will, it's a perspective I thought worth sharing and discussing. Any thoughts on this?

No comments: