August Community Town Hall

Date of Event: August 14th, 2023
Location of Event: Center Theatre Lobby

Attendance: 26

TPS offered this space to discuss— What is the state of theatre? What should we do now? What should our community do? What should TPS do?

Jumping off point— What are the community’s concerns? As director/producer/audience member? What are people thinking about?

  • The community voiced that there is a divide between generations of artists. They feel concerned that young people especially don’t want to come to the theater anymore. So much art is now accessible digitally– what can we do so that going to see live theater is a thing to do? 
  • Youth Involvement in Theatre
    • One community member voiced that they advocate to have 10% minimum of youth/young adults working on the shows within their theatre company. They noted that youth involvement in productions actually grew their audience in comparison to shows that were solely adult. 
    • The community voiced how theatre has the power to save young people. Young people need the arts, and at the same time, if we cut out the older generation, there is another problem— funding (older generation can support shows but maybe not go in person anymore)
    • Younger generation also really feels passionate about tying social justice themes into the theater they do
    • Idea of bringing youth engagement groups to other shows to help fill houses
  • State of Education

Seems like school districts feel that the arts are not as important anymore. There is a lack of theatre access to students at a critical age. The pandemic stopped a specific age group from having access to theatre. Before covid, only 24% of high schools had theater programs. Little bit bigger percentage for elementary schools.

  • Importance of theatre camps/after school programs/youth engagement. If reengaging the educational community were to happen, the whole engine would start up again!
  • Colleen Dilenschneider
    • One community member shared information from Colleen Dilenschneider, chief market engagement officer for IMPACTS. Data shows that the bad news is that theaters are only seeing 50% of nationwide return audience for in person performance. This represents performing arts as a whole– theater specifically is actually lower than that. The good news is that people who have always been arts lovers appreciate it so much more after the pandemic.
    • Dilenschneider found in a national database with thousands of surveys— the demographic that seems to appreciate performing arts more and is still coming: younger, more diverse demographic.
    • Trends: locally, some theater companies are actually doing better than before. They are doing better because the younger demographic is their target audience. It is the larger institutions who are struggling. Smaller theaters are more diverse, and see more turnout than bigger shows.
  • What do people want to see onstage?
    • The community agreed that audiences want to see something that is meaningful. They like to laugh and be entertained, but they also want a deeper message that they can take away.
    • Audiences don’t want a heavy lecture, they want to be entertained yet they still want the show themes to have relevance to their daily life
    • Younger generation grew up in the selfie age– they want to see theatre that they are more a part of. Interactive stuff— being a part of the action. How do you engage that younger audience to make them feel more involved? Pre-show stuff, post-show stuff? How do we evolve our format?
  • Thinking outside of what we are used to
    • Idea of breaking the 4th wall, engaging with audience in a new way could increase audience numbers
    • Some young people don’t even know that a production happened till it closed
  • Theatre critics have been a major part of the theatre ecosystem
    • Intersection between the press and the theatre. 
    • If you don’t get any “digital ink”, you’re invisible. You could read out to the press, but how do you reach out beyond the direct community?
    • Arts criticism and arts coverage is going down. Comes down to capitalism and making money.
    • A lot of arts journalism is there to make the bottom line. They need to determine which articles generate the greatest ad revenue.
  • How nonprofits in WA state function
    • WA state creates 8% of gross state profit. With the way that nonprofits are set up in this state, you have to have a board and people with money on that board. Sometimes there can be business answers without a full understanding of the art. People in development are making a good living, people creating the art are not
    • When a crisis happens in theater, the board members are left feeling stuck
    • Boards have become more corporate, made corporations more corporate. Artistic voices are becoming more and more difficult to be heard. 
  • Serving on a Board–ArtsFund and Project LEAD
    • One community member posed for TPS to play a role in the education of new board members and what it means to serve on a board
    • Idea of civic duty, make this a community you want to live in
    • ArtsFund connects with corporations– “Here’s a way to give back to the community by serving on a board.” 
    • TPS can reach out to ArtsFund to generate interests to engage with theatre
    • Encourage young people to be a part of boards, ect. “You can serve your community by serving on a board.” 
    • Potential opportunities here for workshops/meet & greets
    • The other half of this means defining what staff wants from board members as well
    • Proposal: a paradigm shift with boards. One community member shared an American Theatre Magazine article, Boards Are Broken, So Let’s Break and Help Remake Them
    • Artists should be included on the board to help guide critical decisions
    • TPS Board could use more members. If you know people who would be interested (patron, artist) pass the word along!
    • Give us a name!! to recruit members 
  • Advocacy for the arts
    • How do we advocate with our communities to support the arts?
    • Finding smaller venues that are more accessible and affordable
    • Community members and past-board members recounted past TPS events–  Arts Crush, Fringe Festival
    • How could we come together more as a group? Idea of us becoming one unit rather than 100
    • Community members brainstormed ideas such as doing pop-up shows in non-traditional spaces, making an app as a space to share upcoming shows, a centralized box office to get tickets maybe at a discount (Potentially at the Center Theater and on upper Armory level. This would be helpful for companies to fill out houses/getting word about their shows)
    • It would be nice to have an easy/in-expensive ticketing system that everyone can use
  • Suggestions for TPS 
    • TPS is like a hub, how do we get people involved with that? How do we get people to use the performance calendar once we get that up and running? By making people want to be a part of it. Theatre organizations and companies have to want to be apart of TPS
    • Someone wants to see a show on Friday night. Where is the list? Idea posed for a space where people can post upcoming shows.
      • For this to be effective, it has to be easy for people to submit their shows
      • TPS can also reach out directly to theaters– “What’s your show? Can we put it on our calendar?”
    • Deliver weekly show postings to people’s pockets. What’s on tonight: list of shows, easy click of buttons to get there.
      • Are there a couple of theatre companies to test this on?
    • One community member posed the idea of a podcast– interviewing directors, actors, talking to audience members to help market shows
    • Chase Anderson’s Northwest Theatre
      • Chase Anderson has a theatre calendar— sees shows and blogs about them
      • Is there a way for TPS to collaborate with him?
    • TPS could pull together a meeting of former board members to discuss past things that worked/didn’t work. The idea for TPS started before the founding person
    • Mixer event idea to connect artists with arts leaders
    • For volunteering, everyone is busy. TPS has to convince people that investing time will be worth it. What is the exchange value here? Value of time, talent, energy. 
    • Community members discussed TPS’ Adopt a Studio Program. Person comes in to help clean and organize rehearsal space. They get an hour of free rehearsal time in a studio. Question posed: can we bank the hours for a longer rehearsal?
    • People could send their interns to come see shows
    • TPS will host meetings for senior executives on the last Monday of every month. 
    • Community noted that there is a gap between leadership and creative staff that works for it (particularly larger theaters). Can we host an executive meeting for the artists?
  • Solidarity Economics 
    • One community member shared a term called solidarity economics. There is a learning group that has circles around the country. It’s about how do we share resources? How do we get together and not have to rebuild the wheel?
    • This could mean a space where we have costumes and props that we can store and people can share
    • Community of resource building 
    • Suggestion here for TPS: what does the current potential membership specifically want? Are there different priorities?
  • Final Announcements
  • Yun Theatre’s show opens this Thursday in the Center Theater! (In Between) 7 short plays about migration. It is multilingual (English, Spanish and Mandarin!) 

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