The ONE Thing We Can All Do To Develop Future Audiences.

Building the audience of the future is not only a passion of mine, it’s a necessity.

I plan on producing shows for the rest of my days (and somehow I’m going to figure out a way that my daughter has to at least dabble in daddy’s biz after I’ve gone off to The Great White Way in the Sky).  And without an audience . . . without customers . . . there’s no way this business that I love so much (and also depend on) survives.

But we don’t want it to just survive for the next 1,000 years, we want it to thrive.  Right?

So, we gotta think long term.

Recently I was asked a super specific question by a reporter that never got into print . . .  partly because I blabbed on way too long about it – but hey, that’s why I have a blog, right – so I can blog-blab as many characters as I want!

The question was . . . “If there was one thing, only one thing, that you could do to help develop the future audience, what would it be?”

Before I answer . . . take a moment and you think about your answer to the same question.

What would you do?

TV ads like this one?  Put a megawatt star in a Broadway show?  Beg Lin Manuel Miranda to write Hamilton II (I know, I know, he died at the end, but if anyone could figure out how to make it work, it would be Lin).

All of these are good marketing initiatives, but if we’re looking to develop the next generation of audiences and beyond, what I would do is plant a little bit of a longer-gestating seed.

If I could only do one thing, I would do this . . .

Encourage participation in the theater.

I’d focus on getting more kids to perform in their school plays . . . elementary kids, middle schools, and of course, more high school musicals.

I’d work with community theaters to expand their outreach and involve more citizens from their cities and towns.

I’d develop plans with regional theaters to include children’s theater companies that use local actors.

And I’d build a better bridge between Broadway and every single theater around the world.

Because we depend on them more than we know.

Think about it . . . where did you discover your love of the theater?

My guess is it’s one of two ways . . . your parents brought you to see a show when you were a kid . . . or more likely, somewhere you participated in the theater somehow.

When people participate in any activity, they become more passionate about it, especially something with as much community as the theater.

And when you get that kind of positive hands-on engagement at an early age, the participators will be 100x more likely to attend/support/invest in the theater at a later age.

You know what industry does this well?  My only other non-familial passion . . . the golf industry.  Watch the golf channel sometime.  Half of the ads are about how to improve your own golf game.  Or to try and get you out to play.

Because “play”-ing makes you more passionate.

If I had a general Broadway ad budget, I’d place PSAs not about buying Broadway tickets (because there are millions and millions of theater fans who aren’t near Broadway right now) but encouraging them to get out and join their local community theater . . . to take an acting class at a community college . . . to take their kid to a dance class.

The future development of the Broadway audience, as well as artists and investors, is in the encouragement of kids and people of all ages to participate in the theater however they can.

I know I can’t wait to walk my little girl on a stage for the first time.



  • Jillian says:

    Hi Ken. I don’t normally comment but I thought this was an important point to add to what you said (which I basically agree with). One issue to implementing this plan is the way kids (or anyone) are able to participate. Before you can participate in the school play you have to audition and get cast. Which is fine for those kids who have natural talent and/or whose parents can afford to send them for private lessons. But if you’re not blessed with either of those things, no matter how many opportunities there are in your local area, you probably won’t get to participate. Especially since an overwhelming majority of the theater that is for/includes kids are musicals – if you weren’t blessed with a great voice, you’re basically shut out of participation. And if you’re a kid and keep trying and don’t get cast, you’re not only not invested in theater but you’ve probably been turned off. Now, I know that everyone wants to do the best show possible, which generally means casting the best people possible. That being said, if the goal is to build the next generation of audiences, maybe we need to add to this a way to include more kids who aren’t necessarily “the best” actors/singers/dancers. Practically, I have no idea how this works or how we make it work, but it was definitely something that needs to be addressed.

    • Becca says:

      Encourage kids to be on stage crew, too! I started on a followspot and never went back. Anything we can do to teach kids every job there is in theatre keeps them in the biz 🙂

  • Tia Colborne says:

    This is so true. It’s important for people to write great things that can be produced that can include all different kinds of people. Skill level, ethnicity, gender, age. I we get all people involved at the community level then all people will expect to be represented and included in the professional world. (I do think that theatre does this better than most other industries.

  • Participation is key; it is difficult to love something you haven’t experienced. This is true about our natural world, too. I’ve spent the last 30 years sending groups of high school students to tropical rainforests. All of the students have returned with a greater appreciation of those far off ecosystems and a desire to help save them. One has even gone on to become the executive director of the The Solar Foundation, based in D.C..

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