The competition for arts audiences is enormous today. The number of choices an individual has for entertainment has exploded exponentially due in large part to the Internet and cable television. Right at their fingertips are thousands of entertainment selections that viewers don’t even need to leave their home to enjoy.
So how do you grow arts audiences for the classics and get people into theatre seats? There are several solid avenues to accomplish this goal. But let’s begin at the beginning.
Let’s start with children.
Unfortunately, when school systems are strapped with tighter and tighter budgets, the first curriculum to be abandoned is art. Growing this audience is, of course, a long-term solution but well worth the effort.
Not only is the next generation the fertile ground for audience growth, it is also the springboard for the people who will become the next board of directors, donors, subscribers, volunteers and avid theatre goers.
Recognizing that the public school system is not or cannot develop this knowledge and interest within the next generation, then it is up to the arts community to embrace this educational undertaking.
A few avenues to successfully implement an arts educational outreach program include:
- Provide special performances for students during the school day that can serve as a field trip. Tickets should be drastically reduced for these special performances so every student can afford to attend. Free tickets should be provided to teachers, chaperones and students who can’t afford the nominal fee. A before and after question and answer session serves as an outstanding opportunity to educate students. These types of performances have been knows to “pack the house.”
So, be prepared to deal with school bus parking which can be exceedingly problematic if not handled correctly.
- Offer in-school performer educational presentations. This not only educates the students but also demystifies the performer and the discipline. Students then view the performer more as a friend, so to speak, and transforms their future attendances to the theatre into more of a personal experience.
- Offer online basic educational classes. After a student has successfully completed the online class, offer free tickets to the theatre for a weekend evening performance. It not only gets the student in the door, it also captures up their parent, guardian or chaperone for a theatre experience.
- Reach out to parents who home-school their children. This group of parent-educators quickly grasp onto educational field trip opportunities for their children. There are Websites where these parents exchange information. Post information regarding the arts educational outreach program offered.
This long-term growth approach is but one facet of growing arts audiences for classical theatre. Future articles will address other specific publics.
by Peg Glover