It’s Ten O’clock, and Your Children Are Not in the Theater
The numbers are out and they’re not good. According to the latest number-crunchers, less than 10 percent of Americans goes to the theater. And some people want to get to the root of these appalling statistics.
So what’s the matter? Is it the exorbitant price of a Broadway or even off-Broadway ticket? Is it subject matter that often has little to do with the day-to-day life of the average citizen? Is it competition from so much other media, online, on television and on the big screen? No, no and again no.
It seems the reason so many people are not going to theater these days is that most youngsters lose interest way back in high school when they are subjected to the likes of The Crucible, A Raisin in the Sun… and horror of horrors… Shakespeare! The classics, we are told, are boring and hard to understand.
But have no fear. Every problem must have a solution, and so does this one. The way to increase audiences is to bring new plays into high schools. These plays, apparently, will focus on issues that are relevant to young people today. People of color need stories about people who look like them. Women need plays written by other women. The LGBTQIA teen community needs plays that chronicle their struggles.
Now, I certainly agree, these plays would be a welcome addition to the canon. But I think it’s a sorry state of affairs and a disservice to our young citizens to assume they are so interested in their personal state of existence that they can only relate to the immediate and they do not want their imagination and intellect stretched to encompass the unfamiliar, as well.
Shakespeare may not have been a woman, but he certainly understood woman. And if you’re not convinced, read Othello, As You Like It or Romeo and Juliet. The Crucible, which takes place during the time of the Salem witch trials, is a timeless commentary on mass hysteria and demagoguery. And last I heard, A Raisin in the Sun is a play about African-Americans, written by an African-American woman.
Young people today do indeed love theater. Ask anyone associated with Netflix, Hulu, or your local cinema. Just give them the right story and a fair price, and they’ll give the piece a chance.