What does the future of the American theatre look like? It’s a question we should be constantly thinking about but I know I’m not and sometimes I wonder if anybody is. We spend so much time in survival mode that it’s difficult to look around and say “what’s looking like it’s here to stay?” I was at a meeting this past weekend and people were asking that question and also what is our role. I heard a conversation about the difference between art that is activism/social justice and art for arts sake. I hate that term art for arts sake, I think it’s prejudicial and requires the art or the artist to explain it or herself. If you don’t like it or it doesn’t move you, move on but don’t diminish it by calling it art for arts sake. Anyway…More important to me is what is going to be relevant to audiences. Not just to future audiences but to current audiences as well. Guess what??? I don’t think the answer is in allowing audiences to tweet or giving them opportunities to “talk” to us or any number of so-called engagement activities. I absolutely without a single doubt believe that the reason people don’t go to the theatre is NOT because they can’t tweet there.
I think the future is going to be in the idea of bringing people together for a deeper shared experience. Something that is, from the get, as important to them as it is to the artist. I don’t think it’s going to be about hey – come see my show – it’s going to be about hey – I think we have something in common, want to help me explore that – or hey – I made this thing about your life or hey – want to help me make this thing or maybe most important hey – want to have a spiritual experience? We are afraid to talk about ourselves like that – at our best we are a spiritual experience – we lift and inspire souls, spirits, and intellect. I don’t know that the idea of a curated experience is going to work anymore and I think that’s one of the reasons we are seeing subscription audiences erode.
As I’ve said before, theatre, this ancient art form reflecting our humanity, is not going away, but what will the storytelling of the future look like?