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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

On Attracting New Theater Audiences, and Artists Rep's New Season

Posted by Alison Hallett on Wed, Feb 26, 2014 at 12:59 PM

On Twitter this morning, local actor Harold Phillips linked to an article that sharply criticizes the ability of contemporary theater to attract young and diverse audiences. The article critiques‚ rightly, the idea that arts education is somehow the answer to getting young people to care about theater; it isn't. Making theater they care about is the answer.

The writer—playwright Mike Lew—saves some criticism for the pandering efforts that big theaters do make to bring in the kids, calling out Tweetups and free beer nights for the essentially pandering window dressing that they are.

Attempts by major arts organizations to harness the power of social media have been mostly embarrassing; I've unfollowed a lot of people during "tweet nights" at various arts institutions, and I can't imagine I'm alone in that. Here's a social media tip: Just because your hashtag is trending doesn't mean it's working.

(One exception: I always enjoyed seeing sketches from the opera's Comics Night at the Opera, where artists were invited to sketch during a dress rehearsal. Here's another social media tip: Recruit people who can add actual value to what you're producing. Contextless nattering on Twitter doesn't count.)

The key to attracting new audiences isn't tricks, Lew writes. It's more simple than that: If you want to attract a young, diverse audience, "present work that’s reflective of a young, diverse audience."

Which brings us to Artists Rep's new season, and ... damned if it doesn't do a pretty good job with those criteria. Their 2013-2014 season contains four Northwest premieres and an addition two Portland premieres; three of the eight plays are by women; moreover, Lynn Nottage is African American, Carlos Lacamara is Cuban, Ayad Akhtar's family is from Pakistan, and their plays all feature characters beyond the white Americans we usually see onstage. As for the "young" part: Amy Herzog's 4000 Miles, a 2013 Pulitzer finalist, is about a 21-year-old cyclist, which presumably means we'll see some aggressive outreach to the local bike community. I'll post the full lineup after the jump.

And while we're on the subject: Why has no one taken up the fifth item on Brendan Kiley's list of "Ten Things Theaters Need to Do Right Now to Save Themselves"? On-site, theater-themed childcare during performances, Sunday-school style? Is it an insurance thing? Serious question—seems like a no brainer. Has anyone looked into it? Please advise in the comments.


ARTISTS REPERTORY THEATRE’S 2014/15 SEASON

Intimate Apparel
by Lynn Nottage
Guest Director TBA
Sept 9 – Oct 5
Portland Premiere

A riveting, romantic tale by this Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright about the empowerment of Esther, an African American seamstress in 1905 NYC, who creates exquisite lingerie for both Fifth Avenue boudoirs and tenderloin bordellos.
Alder Stage

Exiles
by Carlos Lacamara
Directed by Dámaso Rodriguez
Sept 30 – Oct 26
NW Premiere

When a storm leaves their tiny vessel helplessly adrift at sea, tension escalates as six Cuban refugees find themselves in a desperate battle against the elements, each other and their past.
Morrison Stage

Blithe Spirit
by Noël Coward
Guest Director TBA
Nov 25 – Dec 21
Otherworldly Classic

This comedic masterpiece will haunt our holiday season. Vana O’Brien in a role she was born to play as the eccentric clairvoyant who inadvertently summons spirits from the beyond.
Alder Stage

Tribes
by Nina Raine
Directed by Dámaso Rodriguez
Feb 3 – Mar 1
Portland Premiere

A scintillating drama about Billy, the only deaf member of his family, as his search for belonging sparks fierce and often funny tensions at home. 2012 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play.
Alder Stage

The Invisible Hand
by Ayad Akhtar
Directed by Allen Nause
Mar 10 – Apr 5
NW Premiere co-produced with Seattle’s ACT Theatre
The 2013 Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright’s tense plot involves a kidnapped American “futures” trader in Pakistan playing the market for his life.
Morrison Stage

The Price
by Arthur Miller
Guest Director TBA
Mar 31 – Apr 26
Rare Revival

In this seldom-seen masterpiece, two estranged brothers must sift through a lifetime of their deceased father’s possessions as they negotiate with a mysterious buyer.
Alder Stage

4000 Miles
by Amy Herzog
Guest Director TBA
Apr 28 – May 24
NW Premiere

A cross-country bike trip from the Pacific NW brings 21-year old Leo, unannounced, to his 91-year old grandmother’s West Village apartment. These unlikely roommates infuriate, bewilder and ultimately reach each other. 2013 Pulitzer Finalist.
Morrison Stage

The Liar
by David Ives, adapted from the comedy by Pierre Corneille
Guest Director TBA
May 26 – June 21
Northwest Premiere

From the brilliant comedic mind of David Ives (All in the Timing, Venus in Fur) comes a hilarious
“transla-daptation” of the 17th Century French romp, replete with mistaken identities and
tangled truths.
Alder Stage

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