I’ve been saying for some time now that live theater’s chances of long-term survival will be greatly enhanced by jumping off the art/culture bandwagon and onto the entertainment and nightlife bandwagon, post-haste.
Theaters need to stop promising to “challenge” and “enlighten” and start promising a good time. We need to call the concession stand “the bar” and tone down – way down – the appeal to higher sensibilities. At Centre Stage, our campaign theme last year was simply this: “Fun!” Our 2008-2009 theme is “Wanna take a ride?” and our spokemodel is a good-looking fun-looking cowboy. Back in Shakespeare’s day, theater was entertainment. Somewhere along the line, however, theater became Shakespeare while entertainment became other things. And that’s where we are today.
What say we stop taking ourselves so damn seriously?
This just in, folks: theater really is fun. No kidding. Fall-off-the-log-easy fun. That’s the message we need to convey. That and only that. Once patrons are in the door, they’ll either realize that our art form (yes, art form) has deeper appeal or they won’t, but whether they realize this is immaterial. Academic theaters and those with huge endowments can “educate” their audiences all they like, but those that exist outside the vacuum fare much better by letting their audiences educate them. Similarly, actors who take pains to distinguish what they do from entertainment need to get over themselves … and get day jobs … conducting tours of historic buildings.