Sunday, October 7, 2007

It's the economy, stupid

A piece today in the New York Times offers the first hard evidence that the aging demographic for the performing arts is based largely on price. The article, by Charles Isherwood, centers on the Signature Theatre company, which two years ago, through an underwriting grant from Time Warner, reduced its ticket price from $45 to $15 (now they're $20). The results:

After the initiative was put in place, 30 percent of audience members were 35 or under; that may not sound like such a hot number, but if you’ve been to a matinee lately, you will not question its significance. The number of attendees with annual income of less than $50,000 grew by 25 percent. A full half of the audience was new to the Signature. Statistics from my own informal eyeballing poll indicate that the audience has acquired the healthy diversity — of age and ethnicity — that you typically see only at the Public Theater’s free Shakespeare in the Park.

All the productions in the two seasons the program has been in place have sold out and extended their runs, including the first show of the current, third season, Charles Mee’s “Iphigenia 2.0.” The Signature recently announced that Time Warner would continue the subsidies through the 2010 season.

Now is there a source in Boston for that kind of largesse? Is "diversity" the magic word that could open up the corporate till - even if it's class diversity? Who can step up to the plate for theatre?

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