Last Sunday’s front-page article “Phantom of the theater: Audience is getting older” reported that the average age of theatergoers is close to 50. The article attributed much of the lack of attendance by those in their 20s and 30s to the high cost of tickets; yet much of that “missing” audience has no trouble spending money (and often relatively more of it) on sporting events, rock concerts, bars, and restaurants.
As the publisher of more than 60 plays a year for school kids, I believe that the theater population is aging because schools have eliminated theater education from the curriculum. Many kids aren’t exposed to theater, never act, never sit in an audience watching live theater, and never get the chance to clap at the end of an exciting performance.
Adults who remember the part they played in that school play, and the confidence and poise it gave them, should cherish that memory because many of today’s students will never experience that joy.
Over time, as our students grow up to become our teachers, they won’t have the background to even know that theater should be part of a full and rich life.
The writer is the publisher of Plays, the Drama Magazine for Young People.