October 31, 2013

So I got all scientifical and found out some stuff

In the vein of there being no problem that the right tool or right mindset can solve, and shamelessly ripping off the Just Ask Them Method of Orlando Jones, I whipped up a survey to see what was going on. I make no promises about this being statistically sound or even the most rigorous method ever. This only reflects the people in my own audience (and maybe the people in their audience).

The findings were pretty interesting, especially when it came to what kept people from seeing more theatre. Here is my extremely unscientific analysis of the findings:

  1. Most people (two-thirds of respondents) see plays once or twice a year, or once every few years.
  2. There's a strong preference for musical theatre (67% of respondents) followed by classics and modern stuff (57% and 50% of respondents, respectively), but there's also a good audience for quirky, off-the-wall stuff (48% of respondents) that doesn't happen all the time.
  3. The biggest hurdle to attendance are price (almost 75%)and transportation (almost 35%). Surprisingly, a good third of people said that having no one to go with (almost 30%) and not knowing what's playing (about one-third of respondents). In addition, lack of access for people with disabilities (wheelchair access, closed captioning for the hearing-impaired, etc.) was also something that impacts some people.
  4. After making it cheaper and bringing it closer, most people (38%) want more help to find out what's on stage.
  5. A huge majority of people (almost two-thirds) are willing to pay around $20 for a ticket. For people with a bigger entertainment budget, that jumps to around $50 (20%). So that means 80% of people are going to shell out for tickets that cost, at most, $50.
  6. A huge chunk of people (60%) are willing to travel up to one hour to see a play.
  7. If money, time, and location were not an issue, most people (70%) would see one or two plays per month or 3 to 5 plays a year. A good fifth of them would even go weekly.
  8. Representation of people of color and LGBTQ people is something that gets brought up when people ask what it would take to get them to see more plays.
  9. People want to see more theatre, but pricing and scheduling often makes that difficult.

When asked about what would get them to see more theatre, a couple of people made a very interesting suggestion: make recordings and/or livestreams of shows available like the MET and MTV Unplugged (remember them?).

This is gravy for a starving artist like me who's practically reattached my umbilical cord to a wifi connection because that's something I said I wanted to do, and more than once at that.

The only barrier, of course, is finding an affordable option (read: has starving artist prices) that also makes it easy for people to attend.

Can someone help me out here?

October 27, 2013

Why Orlando Jones is the smartest man alive right now (that's called hyperbole and I'm doing it on purpose)

A couple of days ago, Orlando Jones ("Not the little boy from Everybody Hates Chris. Not Solange Knowles. Not Orlando Bloom. Not the black Jeff Goldblum. Not Madea. Not Mos Def") did the smartest thing ever in the history of media folks and audiences.

He asked fans what they think (and followed up afterward).

Since diversity in theatre is a big thing of mine, I want to focus on that for a bit.

The vast majority of the time, when people talk about diversity in theatre, what the underlying question seems to be is, "What is it with Those People?"

Why aren't Those People coming to our shows? Why aren't Those People finding their work onstage? Why aren't Those People seeking out our programs and services? Why aren't Those People doing this, that, or the other thing? What is it with Those People?

(*Those People includes any group who is outside of the usual target demographic for theatre as a whole. This can include: People of color, women, LGBTQ people, working-class and poor people, disabled people, people without an MFA, young people, the elderly, and so on.)

Orlando Jones flipped the script. Instead of talking around the audience or filtering that knowledge through, say, a PR firm or marketing agency, he actively encouraged them to participate. He asked them what they needed and wanted from the media they participate in. In so many words, he invited Those People to share their thoughts, feelings, and perspectives. It was a rare treat to see such a conversation happen in such a transparent way.

I really want to see more of that.

If I'm to be perfectly honest, I'm bored with the Why It's Important to Have Those People Around discussion. It's already more than clear that there is a problem and that more needs to be done. At this point, if this or that person or organization still needs to be convinced that including and involving Those People in theatre is something that needs to be done, I'm not particularly invested in converting them. I'm about as interested in doing that as I am in trying to persuade someone that dinosaurs did not hang around Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (read: not at all).

As a matter of fact, I'm tired of talking about Those People and want to do more of what Orlando Jones did and talk with Those People (which would, I guess, turn them into You People).

How would this sort of direct contact or direct confrontation impact how we go about making structural and institutional changes in the theatre community?