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The Abstemious Audience

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The weekend of a typical teenager consists of homework, sleep, time spent with friends and a trip down to the theatre to bask in the wonder of the performing arts. All teenagers have an extensive and inbred knowledge of the arts. Those events held in the auditorium that teens only attend to get credit for their humanities classes - what teenager can honestly say he doesn’t know about the performing arts? Teen’s dearth of sufficient spending funds, and the unreasonable expectation of hair-raising movie special effects have catalyzed the lamentable paucity of our younger generations’ interest in theatre, creating a problematic absence of youthful audiences that theatres must make monumental strides in order to restore.

The source of teenagers’ disinterest lies heavily within the empty confines of their wallets. How many teenagers can afford to spend $100 a night? How many of them do? Not surprisingly, most adolescents would not offer, let alone have the adequate funds, to spend that kind of money on any given night. According to the New York Times, full-price orchestra tickets for a standard Broadway show now cost a minimum of $100. That’s at least three weeks worth of babysitting money. Two years ago the Signature Theater Company decided to underwrite the cost of their tickets to $15, to see if they could attract a younger crowd. The Signature program proved immediately, but not surprisingly, successful. After the company lowered the ticket prices, thirty percent of the audience members were reportedly less than thirty five years of age. James Houghton, the Signature's artistic director, stated, “''What we discovered pretty quickly is that if you take that financial barrier away, there is a lot of interest in theater.”

Even if our teenagers could afford Broadway tickets, many would still be impartial to theatre, due to the grandiose expectations now placed on any form of entertainment. When faced with a decision between an adventure-filled, action-packed flick charged with special effects and a music-filled, emotion-packed show charged with lighting and sound effects, which will most teenagers choose? In today’s culture the louder and more explosive a movie appears, even if it portrays an irrefutably, shallow plot, the more tickets it sells. According to the magazine Advertising Age, to boost the sluggish box office sales from the first half of the year, a slew of horror, thriller, sci-fi and action films appeared in the second season. Shockingly, that list did not include a one-act play, a musical, an opera, or a ballet. This fact illustrates the unfortunate apathy with which students approach theatre and the bleak state of the performing arts in the hands of the younger generations. So, what kind of future does that leave for the enchanting realm of the fine arts?

Thankfully, not all teenagers have become disillusioned with the arts. Some students possess a fiery passion for theatre. I would know; I am one of those theatre-enthusiast-students. For many adolescents, performing arts embody the crème de la crème of the entertainment world. Yet, disappointingly, statistics continue to broadcast the news that, in the case of the fine arts, apathy has become the esprit de corps within the teenage society.

Can society possibly remedy this abhorrent problem? In the words of the infamous Bard, “Be just and fear not.” In order to lower the age of theatre audiences, the industry and the viewers will need to reach a compromise. Arts organizations must be willing to decrease their prices so that younger audience members can afford tickets. Conversely, teenagers must open themselves up to the idea of a varying culture filled with entertainment other than superficial, volatile, special effects. Hopefully, in time we will see a youthful renaissance of sorts prevail in the theatre world, exalting the performing arts to its deserved eminence - complete with an auspicious future.

This will certify that the above work is completely original – Madison Lee McGhee





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