I was reading an article called “Outside the Box”, by Ken Auletta, in The New Yorker Feb 3, 2014 issue, about Netflix and the future of television. It’s clear, from the success of online series like House of Cards, with a full season released at once by Netflix, that video on demand is an idea that works. It’s an idea that I keep teasing at, as I work to market small theatre productions.
I spend an inordinate amount of my time trying to get an audience to the shows I produce. It’s the most difficult part of the process – selling the tickets. Here in NYC we are competing with 1000 good shows a night (at least) for what appears to be an ever-shrinking population of theatre-goers.
I produce a lot of solo shows, which are perhaps the most difficult to market. Performers, including myself, are compelled to harry our friends and families to come to the show. It’s exhausting and sometimes demeaning, and it can make you unpopular. You log on to Facebook and half the artists you know are shilling their shows. We all know it is nearly pointless. Selling tickets is incredibly hard. Why?
Some contend that the audience for theatre is shrinking, that it’s an outdated entertainment form, or that it’s for purists. Some fear that younger audiences don’t embrace live theatre –that it is doomed to die when the audience dies, and that the audience is dying.
In my experience, discount ticket sellers have proven that there’s an audience out there– intelligent, grateful theatre-goers who are paying the discount ticket sellers small amounts of money to see a show. We worry that it’s hard to sell full price tickets. But we may be missing the point. One way to see it is that people are willing to pay for theatre, even if it’s only $5 per show. So, if that’s true, then solo artists, like myself, who are producing our own material, have the keys in our hands. We can let the public pay us $5 a show. Online.
Consider Louis CK. He did. And made millions his first weekend. We are not all Louis CK (a pity – he’s a genius) but we can follow his example. I intend to. I’m preparing to put my material online. I’ll be writing more in this blog about the experience. As for the future of theatre, here’s a paragraph from the Auletta article that gave me a lot of hope.
“There’s a reason people now talk about this as the golden age of scripted drama,” Michael Lynton, the C.E.O. of Sony Entertainment, told me. “You can write a character that grows over the course of thirteen hours of television. That’s more attractive than a two –hour movie.” The opportunities have enticed strong writers, directors and actors.” What’s happened as a result of this is a flourishing of an entirely new kind of television.
I hope we can see the flourishing of an entirely new kind of theatre.