What will tomorrow’s audience want from their theater?

Yesterday, we chatted about how difficult it is to get the multitasking generation to the theater because they can lay on their couch and channel surf, web surf and Wii surf, all at the same time.

That got me thinking . . .

There have been a number of theories tossed around lately about how the current crop of musicals on Broadway have a certain sound or are from popular musical catalogs, because the current theater-going demographic (folks 40+) is the first group of theater-lovers who grew up on rock and roll.

Simply put, the traditional sound of musicals has changed, because the traditional audience has changed.

Well, in the 1980s, another entertainment game-changer hit the stores:  the personal computer and the video game.

According to my calculations, that puts us about 10 years away from the next group of 40 year olds who grew up on something that their parents didn’t; a something that had a major impact on their lives, and their entertainment.

So . . . if Rock and Roll had such an effect on our product . . .  can you imagine the effect that the computer will have on our product?  Or the video game?

Or, I guess what I’m saying is . . . our audience is about to turn upside down pretty dang soon.  The computer is the car of the last 30 years.  And that’s going to have a ripple effect and change what people want from their theater.

If you’re a writer, get ready to adapt and expand, because our audience is going to want so much more if we expect them to turn off and sit still for two hours.

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Update:  I wrote the above blog two days before this article about the “Theater of the Arcade” appeared in the NY Times.  Read it here.  Interesting stuff on its way.

  • Tom Hoefner says:

    Gamers are way ahead of you, Ken. We’re already here.
    In my work directing college students, I’ve often utilized the world of video games to present dramatic situations in terms they’d understand. I once scored a college production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” using the musical score from SquareSoft’s popular swords, sorcerers and fairies RPG series, “Final Fantasy”. I intentionally designed “The Unlikely Adventure of Race McCloud, Private Eye”, my comic book and video-game grown play, with a structure that mimics the famous “Mega Man” series of games, and with a plot layout that would lend itself easily to game adaptation. The fightwork my stage combat choreographer has done in “Race McCloud” owes as much to the world of “Street Fighter” and “Mortal Kombat” as much as it does traditional martial arts and stage combat technique.
    There’s a great play by Richard Lovejoy (performed at The Brick and the inspiration for their current festival) called “Adventure Quest” that’s an existential spin on the old Sierra text-based adventure games, like “King’s Quest” and “Quest for Glory”; it plays as if the love child of Terry Gilliam and Samuel Beckett had been hired to write the script for one of those games.
    And Aaron Loeb, the author of “Abraham Lincoln’s Big Gay Dance Party” from last year’s FringeNYC (now Off-Broadway), is a gamer and gaming columnist who wrote a play called “First Person Shooter”, that explores the issue of games like “Doom” and “Quake” and “Duke Nukem” being blamed for youth violence and other societal ills.
    You’re right. The gamers have grown up, and their sensibilities are sneaking over into other art forms. Theatre is no exception. I’d almost say you’re a little late to the party… (but not a lot).

  • Allison says:

    Hi, Ken. Check out this production of “Othello.” They encouraged the audience to use their iphones to help them understand the text during the production!

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