Wednesday, September 03, 2014

It's pretty, but is theatre any longer necessary? - DC Theatre Scene:

We’ve done a parallel disservice to the theatre: we’ve allowed an ancient institution of high purpose to devolve to something merely decorative, an appurtenance of leisured life, not a preserver of life itself. Theatre no longer guides, it distracts. Theatre no longer orients, it diverts. Theatre no longer flashes out danger, it celebrates good feeling. We’ve lost any visceral sense of what theatre is for. Like the lighthouses of popular imagination it’s perceived as quaint. It’s become a tourist attraction.

At the summit discussion Peter Marks organized this spring at Arena Stage, five Artistic Directors bemoaned the lack of diversity in playwrights and directors, the lack of young people in the audience, the high cost of production, and the high cost of tickets. Their confab produced a flurry of derisive tweets blaming the bemoaners themselves for all these shortcomings.

I found myself unable to take sides on these questions because my mind couldn’t let go of a statistic somebody mentioned in passing: according to the NEA, the audience for theatre has declined by a third in ten years.While we debate how to make theatre cheaper and more inclusive, a good part of our audience is dying off or learning to live without us.