Where is our future audience?

Last night I went to see the Vancouver Playhouse’s production of The Drowsy Chaperone (which is, by the way, a wonderfully cheese-filled romp through musical theatre lead by Jay Brazeau–go if you get a chance). I was happy to see that the house was packed out, even though it was a cold night, and the weather was calling for snow.

Sitting in my seat, I started looking around, checking out the crowd. The median age, I would say, in a very unscientific way, was well into their 50’s. There were a few young people in their 20’s and 30’s, maybe one teenager, but for the most part, it was an audience that looked like they were either retired, or not far from it.

And I’m not so much talking demographics, here. This show was a lot of fun, had quite a young cast, and was energetic. There was nothing in this show that young people would not like. So, where are they?

The concern I had last night as I looked around was this: if this is the Playhouse’s main audience, their subscribership, what is the Playhouse going to do when they are gone? Their audience is, pardon the expression, dying off.

This is an issue that affects all of us who are producing theatre in Vancouver, but more so those companies that rely upon subscribers to sell thier season (like the Playhouse and the Arts Club). How do we get a younger audience hooked on theatre? Money could be a factor–student tickets for Drowsy are $33, and for an adult, up to $56. I totally get that the Playhouse has put together a lavish production that looks great and they need to pay for that (including the wages of my friend Nick who is in the band), but it is possible that ticket prices are keeping younger people from seeing theater.

A recent production at Havana by a local, young company called Itsazoo (all four of its artistic directors are in their 20’s) managed to do quite well, and sell out most of the shows in their run. They kept ticket prices to $15 and spread the word through Facebook and their own personal network.

The Playhouse does have a Facebook presence, with both a group and an event page for the play. But something is still not quite connecting–where is our future audience, and how do we get in touch with them?

I’d love to hear your comments.