We need younger audiences. But who hasn’t?

The cry in advertising and marketing meetings all over the country is, “We need to find younger audiences!”

And I agree.

But . . . something tells me that this same cry has been heard for every decade of theatergoing.  I have to wonder if even Shakespeare himself was frustrated because he couldn’t get college-age kids to put down their PBR, leave their sorority parties and come listen to some verse.

Back in this country, over the past 75 years, has the theater ever been something that the youngins have flocked to organically?


Unfortunately, that means it’s going to take a lot more than a $25 ticket or a ‘bring us your empty PBR can and we’ll give you a free t-shirt promotion’ to win over this lot.

It’s going to take the right product.

Unfortunately, product that appeals to this sect, doesn’t necessarily appeal to the traditional theater going sect, who are the fuel that keeps the theater going economically.

And, as ol’ Bill would say, “there’s the rub.”

Because we do need them.  And yes, every generation may have said that, but I believe that this generation needs it even more, thanks to the declining attendance on Broadway and the declining participation in the arts nationwide.

While young audiences may not be the answer for your short term sales needs, if you’re looking to stay in this business for a long time, they are the future of your long term needs.

Because they grow up.

And eventually they grow out of PBR-soaked hangovers and would rather enjoy a night of Hamlet instead.

  • Theo says:

    I think young people do not know the awesomeness of shows. It took me 21 years before I realized how great they are. Luckily I was on a career track to become an engineer. As a student I did not have much money. Now that I make a decent living, pretty much every dollar I make that isn’t for food, rent, or car, it goes to the arts. When I was a student, I only had money for a show s year. Now that I have a steady income, I am up to two shows a month; for someone who doesn’t live in NYC I think that is pretty good.
    Use me as a model young person to get. Target engineers who need to work their creative side of their brain once in a while, have flexible lives vs workaholics, and money to see shows frequently.

  • Judith says:

    That is one way government could subsidize theatre without endorsing any particular kind of theatre. If money for theatre tickets could be provided to young people to see theatre (like it is in England) then that could be the start of many young people actually experiencing professional theatre for the first time. Once they have that theatre experience then we could have them for life. It could be reinforced if theatre was part of the cirriculum in high school instead of extra cirriculum activity. It’s really important. It is culture and theatre needs to be made and kept part of the culture or the culture will die. It isn’t only important for selling tickets. It’s important because it is a truly rich and engaging experience unlike any other that needs to be kept alive and well.

  • janiska says:

    I see too many shows that appear to be trying to appeal to the young people by dumbing down their shows. Too many shows are dumbed down to meaningless drivel then hyped it to the point of insanity.
    I’m not sure where the line is drawn where one can no longer be considered a ‘young’ person. but I may well be past it or at least on the cusp. But my same age friends and my young friends as well seem to be longing for meaning both in life and in entertainment. It is even attemped in computer games, but Broadway and movies to an even greater degree seem to be going after the young audience with pure drivel.
    When I read the weekly grosses, I am impressed with the number and lower earnings of the meaningless shows despite the incredible degree of hype.
    Maybe it’s time Broadway give greater consideration to the beauty of their product than to the effectiveness of their marketing.

  • Vance says:

    Is it though? Wasn’t some recent Theatre Wing statistics (I can’t remember where exactly I saw it but the Wing seems to make the most sense) showed that over the past 2 decades the average age has been about the same, if not getting slightly older, but if you looked and compared at data from the earlier part of the decade (30’s 40’s 50’s?), the average age for theatre was far younger, and I remember something about the mid 30’s. (Though maybe I’m just totally wrong).
    As a young person (well, I’m starting to move away from it) who attempts to get all my friends to see theatre, I just think most people don’t realize how much they will like it, and either cost, or a previous experience with one bad show has turned them off.
    With that said, I agree with janiska in that many shows attempt to appeal to younger just seem to dumb things down. Appealing to younger doesn’t mean dumbing shows down. But it may mean making a show about things that matter to them.

  • Esther says:

    It’s interesting, I only became a regular theatergoer a few years ago – long past my youth, sadly. But I’d see a lot of movie musicals and plays that had been turned into movies. I liked to read plays. I just never went to see one.
    For me, part of it was that I never went to the theatre as a kid, never had any friends who were interested in going.
    And unlike movies, theatre just seemed intimidating – I thought it would be prohibitively expensive and I’d feel uncomfortable going by myself. (Although I’ve gone to plenty of movies alone.) It took me a long time to get past that.

  • Addison DeWitt says:

    Isn’t this the whole idea behind shows like SPRING AWAKENING, BLOODY, BLOODY, ANDREW JACKSON, etc?

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