Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Elephant in the Room

NY Times reports on NEA comments - is theatre simply a case of supply and demand?

I find it fascinating that the "Are there too many theatres?" conversation is taking place on a national level. Is theatre an art form past its prime?  Are there simply too many demands on people's time, wallets, and attention spans?  Too many easy ways to find entertainment, inspiration and insight into the human experience?What the heck are Jayne and I doing, anyway, wanting to start a new theatre in Knoxville?  Does theatre even matter anymore?


  1. Once upon a time, publishers were convinced that children don't read much anymore, so they started publishing shorter books. Reading scores were not great nationally, so they published "dumbed down" books. Between computer and TV and internet, books simply had no chance. Then, suddenly young people began reading reading like mad! Big, thick books that did not condescend to them. What caused this change? 2 words: Harry Potter.

  2. I don't think it's so much that there is too much supply as there are too many suppliers who don't care enough about actually providing something of value to their prospective consumers. This wasn't so much of a problem when consumer choice was more limited. But the consumer of narrative product today --regardless of whether the desire is to be distracted or have ideas challenged -- has many options, and theatre is a relatively expensive one. If a consumer is going to pay more for something they want to get more from it in exchange. Musicals provide more in terms of immediate spectacle;music and dance, and so they are still doing relatively well. But what do audience members at a drama or comedy get that you cannot get from TV or movies today? From the post-WWII years until about the mid-90s the answer was more intellectually/emotionally engaging or truthful content. But that is not the case any more.