Last night I enjoyed the latest production at Pentacle Theater. If almost non-stop mirth of the belly laugh variety mixed with a few tears in a heartwarming loony family setting rings your entertainment bell, then I urge you to spend two hours eavesdropping on the happenings at the Gianelli home on stage in the next few weeks.
I loved the show. However, my heart was sad at the lack of people in the seats. Could live theater be dying? How do we get people come out, take a risk and feel the magic that only live theater can produce?
It’s much more than just marketing that needs to be done. People need to be turned on to art when they children. This “creating audiences of tomorrow” cliché that’s been on every grant application for the past two decades has finally caught up with us. Arts Ed is virtually gone and video is the only art kids consume with their Hot Cheetos. Most artists don’t care about Arts Ed, but it is at the heart of the “is theatre dying?” conversation. And until our best artists invest in Arts Ed, we will be pushing a boulder up a mountain in trying to get young adults to start coming to live theatre.
I am experiencing this first hand this summer. For the past 4 weeks, and for the next week, I have the opportunity to “hook” kids on live theater. I’ve been working at Children’s Educational Theater teaching classes and serving as the Technical Director. Every day I am reminded how arts education builds everyday learning in the hearts and minds of children. The public school system has let our children down by cutting the arts from school curriculums. I know money is tight, but I believe they need to be more creative in providing an arts education to children. Perhaps one way to solve this problem is allow artists to come into schools to teach without all the hoops and red tape to dance through. Perhaps it could be accomplished by teaching a love of language, creativity, and personal interactions.
We need artists of all ages, backgrounds and cultures to lead us, the floundering audience, into the future. We need to encourage these voices with our presence. However, these artists will need to be bold to get our attention. Ask your friend, neighbor, kid: What would you rather do – turn on the … [insert favorite electronic distraction] … or go to the theatre?
Theatre artists also need to really ask themselves what their community needs. Will that change the art? You bet it will. Many artists will have no interest in this question, as it is has nothing to do with how they have always created their works. Yet by definition, non-profits are Public Benefit corporations. We are there to serve the public, not just to do the art that we like and think the public should like too. If they liked it as much as we do, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
As a patron of the arts, I need a “mini-vacation.” I need to escape for a few hours. I need a reason to believe in the human race again. I need to reconnect with my neighbors, my community, my world. I need to leave up lifted, and yes, I need to be entertained.
Thank you cast and crew of Over the River and Through the Woods for giving me just what I needed.