When was the last time you bought a season subscription to a theatre? I have a tough time getting my friend to commit to seeing a show next week, I can’t imagine trying to get them to commit to several over the next year.
Whose idea was this in the first place? Oh yes, the Regional Theaters. Get the patrons to commit to a season instead of single shows so that money is in the bank and the organization can ensure there will be an audience for their riskier endeavors.
The season-subscription-buying generation is slowly disappearing. The young’uns of today are more impulsive. The larger theaters are becoming increasingly dependent on grant funds that are quickly decreasing.
The smaller theaters are still selling season subscriptions and planning their season over a year in advance because, hey, that’s just how it’s done. But that cool play that seemed timely when in season planning mode might be seem past due once it gets around to production. This model prevent theatre companies from producing mainstage programming that is actually, dare I say it, relevant!
Theatre makers blame TV, the internet, YouTube, social media, and those other wacky modern tools from taking audiences away from theatre. Why not figure out what those media have that theatre is lacking? I’ll give you a clue: It’s starts with “I” and ends with “mmediacy.”
Today’s news can be in a web series tomorrow. But that play you want to write about yesterday’s life changing event? There might be room for it next year.
Let’s do away with the season and yearly subscription package as it exists.
Find an audience that will be loyal to your organization because of the type of theatre you do, whether it be local, cultural, or aesthetic interests. That is the way to support your institution that is part of the Local Theatre Movement, just as the subscription was the life blood of the Regional Theatre Movement.
Then you are more free to produce what you want, when you want to. You can announce your line up for half the year, or the whole year with empty slots for performances about what interests your community now. Or just do one show at a time, see how long it can run. When interest dies down for that show, be ready to announce your next.
Rather than fighting a public that only cares about the here and now, let’s give them what they want. Maybe the customer is always right after all.