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A Night Less Ordinary -any views?

For those of you outside the UK I'd better explain what this is - it is an initiative between the Arts Council England and Metro newspaper which is providing 618,000 free tickets to anyone under 26 in more than 200 theatres across England between February 2009 and March 2011.
The idea to to help create a new generation of theatre goers.

A great concept.  However, I've been to several productions at Chichester where tickets were available under this scheme and I've seen very few people in the 18 - 25 age group.  Most of those that I saw under 26 were in the under 18 age range and with their family.

It could be that I am a boring old fart who goes to boring old fart type productions and that if I went to plays which were a bit more "In-Yer-Face" I would see far more 18-25 year olds.  However, I remember reading an article which said that research carried out by some of the London Park Theatres found the same thing - that those taking advantage of the scheme were in family groups with a previous history of theatre-going.

I wonder if anyone has any views on the scheme and any evidence of   how it is working in their area?  I am interested in how the scheme is going and I'm keeping an open mind on it until I can get a broader picture.

I wish I could be more optimistic about this venture.

Culture is something that needs to be cultivated. Works of quality, in any field, are often difficult to take in, and require not only effort, but an willingness to make that effort, and, possibly, also some familiarity with and understanding of the form. Unfortunately, an entire generation has now grown up without having come into contact with quality drama: the very fact that a scheme such as this is thought necessary tells its own story.

I'd love to be proved wrong in this, but I can't really see a new generation of theatre-goers emerging from this. I wish the scheme luck, though.

Just as I was wondering how to find out if theatre audiences had gone down in NZ and if there were fewer youngsters attending and wondering if young people had ever been keen theatre goers, I hear on the radio the artistic director at the Auckland Theatre Company talking.  And he said of young people or school students, "They are so theatrically literate now.  Probably because of NCEA." (our exam/internal assessment system, based rather on Scotland's and using achievement standards rather than pass/fail).  He said the kids asked all the right questions about production and theatrical effects etc.  Then he said the theatre experience is not removed from their own experiences now.  

I was going to wonder if you need to get into schools more to see what is actually happening but have remembered my husband's experiences as a supply teacher in England, where he was only expected to keep the kids inside the classroom and was praised highly for achieving this - teaching was not expected.  My son said much the same.  But they were not teaching in good schools.  

Cheers, Caro.

For reasons that I don't know (quite possibly just coincidence) the radio is now interviewing someone again about growing theatre and its audiences.  This time Oliver Driver, Artistic Associate to Silo Theatre also in Auckland, but perhaps a little independent theatre.  I came to this near the end, but he seemed to be saying some sort of stability was needed to develop theatre.  Actors and backstage need to have stable work for 6 months at a time, rather than doing plays on what seems a one-off basis.  

I don't know enough about our theatre in NZ but he seemed to be wanting perhaps some government guarantee of pay or something - he said you put on a play and get to know each other and it be useful to continue with those actors, instead of having to start again.  He also said that would prevent the situation where every play has to make a profit (ie be a popular one that people will come to in numbers), and would allow for classic ones as well as new NZ works.  

But I wasn't really aware that actors didn't tend to stay with one theatre and build a relationship with it.

"You can't just expect people to hit 50 and somehow come to theatre," he said.

Cheers, Caro.

Thank you for your posts, Caro.  However, I wonder that if this awareness that pupils have of the theatre in NZ is translating into theatre going once they have left school?

Most schools in the UK put on plays and there seems to be no shortage of students taking courses in performing arts.  But this doesn't seem to mean "bums on seats" for this age range except for the musical blockbusters.

How does the ratio of professional theatre seats per population head in New Zealand compare to the UK?  I'd be interested to know.

When I was a teacher I organised many theatre trips for my pupils. Those I'm still in contact with remember them well - but hardly any have become regular theatre-goers I'm afraid.  Don't know why.

Sandraseahorse wrote:
Most schools in the UK put on plays and there seems to be no shortage of students taking courses in performing arts.  But this doesn't seem to mean "bums on seats" for this age range except for the musical blockbusters.

How does the ratio of professional theatre seats per population head in New Zealand compare to the UK?  I'd be interested to know.

Our daughters enjoyed taking part and watching school plays and musicals. One of their friends was in an Am Dram society so they continued regular theatre going after they left school. Now they have children of their own they are taking them to performances at our local theatre. Co-incidently the youngest daughter went to see Oliver! at the professional theatre last week but she and her husband do not make a habit of watching plays.

As for the number of seats, each of the main cities has a pro or semi-pro theatre company so I am guessing there are about 10,000 seats available, but if you count the venues which both pro and amateur companies can use - school halls and community halls - then I would double that figure. The ratio in that case would become one seat for every 225 people. Does that sound reasonable or have I over-estimated?

I didn't really ignore your question, Sandra - I just couldn't find an answer.  So thanks, Castor Boy, for providing one.  I read someone saying that people weren't going to the theatre any more, but then when I looked up young people and NZ theatre it seems they are keen (some of them anyway) on going to a theatre in Wellington called BATS.  The website   says its aims are:  

Keeping ticket prices for students on a par with cinema admission and video hire rates.
Programming the theatre with entertainment value as a priority
Ensuring a consistently high standard of work
Keeping the doors open for young theatre practitioners.
Promoting the theatre along the lines of cheap but good entertainment

Certainly the price of theatre tickets would be prohibitive to youngsters.  My own kids, not all that young, still are very careful with their money (mostly so they can save it for another trip to Britain and Europe, not so they can pay off student debts) and are likely to refuse an invitation to eat out if they are not sure we will be paying!  

Actually we think twice ourselves before shelling out for theatre tickets.  Should get a season's ticket, I suppose, but we are 110 kms from Dunedin and its regular plays.  

Cheers, Caro.

Well I didn't know anything about this which is hardly surprising really as we don't have any theatres in this area.  So that would possibly be one point why would anyone bother to travel miles to the theatre when they can do other things locally. Quite a simplistic shallow response but a quite valid one I think. When my kids were at Primary school they organised trips to the theatre and the nearest theatre to us is Birmingham which is about 45 miles away.

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