BUILDING YOUNGER AUDIENCES

Thomasina Petrus and H. Adam Harris facilitating an On Stage discussion at the University of St. Thomas about A Raisin in the Sun

"The actors provoked me and the students to build on the work we have already done together, but to go deeper... When you all left, I put aside my lecture notes for the evening, and we spent an hour and a half building on the foundation you and the actors had built."

Peter Rachleff - 

Former Professor at The University of Minnesota

On Stage is committed to developing a younger audience base for theater in the Twin Cities.  

In completing a masters (MPS) in Arts and Cultural Leadership at the University of Minnesota, On Stage founder Lucas Erickson analyzed theater audiences in his final project, An Exploration of Methods and Challenges in Building Younger Theater Audiences. Click the link below to read Lucas' capstone paper. 

 

ABSTRACT: According to theater professionals interviewed in the Twin Cities and a review of recent academic literature relative to audiences for American theater, audiences are aging, and attendance rates are declining. This phenomenological study explores what some theaters are doing to develop a sustainable younger audience for the future. It also looks at live theater and participatory theater workshops for young people and their value for enhancing life experiences of young people. This paper describes research with theater organizations in the Twin Cities and with youth in Metro Area schools and finds that there is a gap between what most area theaters are currently doing and what they could be doing to engage young people. This paper reviews academic literature, discusses research findings and observations, and makes recommendations based on these findings.

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INTERESTING TIDBITS FROM THE RESEARCH:

  • Since 2008, attendance rates at theaters in the United States have declined for both musical and non-musical plays for twenty-five to forty-four-year olds (Iyengar 16).

  • At the same time average age of audiences attending classical music performances and jazz concerts is also increasing (13). This is not only because the median age of the general population is creeping up (the median age was thirty-five in 2000, and it was thirty-eight in 2016); it also appears to be the result of one generation of audience members not being effectively replaced by the next (The Nation’s Median Age Continues to Rise). 

  • Dan Aucoin, writer for the Boston Globe, said, “On Broadway, theatergoers aged eighteen to thirty-four made up less than a quarter of the audience in the 2010-11 season… the average age for audiences was fifty-three” (Aucoin). 

  • Theater audiences are not only aging, but attendance rates are declining for all ages of theater attendees. Since 2008, attendance rates have declined for both musical and non-musical plays (twelve percent decline between 2008 and 2012 for non-musical plays). This is the first decline in musical play attendance since 1985 (Iyengar 16). Non-musical play attendance has dropped thirty-three percent over the last decade (16).

 

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OTHER SUPPORTING RESEARCH:

  • Iyengar, Sunil. “How a Nation Engages with Art: Highlights from the 2012 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts.” National Endowment for the Arts. September 2013. Web. 10 Nov. 2017.

  • “The Nation’s Median Age Continues to Rise.” United States Census Bureau. Web. 19 Mar. 2018.

  • Aucoin, Dan. “Phantom of the theater: Audience is getting older.” Boston Globe. 17 June 2012. Web. 12 Jan. 2018.

  • Boehm, Mike. “Nonprofit theaters are attracting more donors, but audiences keep shrinking, report says.” Los Angeles Times. 5 Nov. 2015. Web. 2 Feb. 2018.

ON STAGE: CREATING A COMMUNITY DIALOGUE AROUND LIVE THEATER

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