The Playgoer: The Long Commute

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Long Commute

I have belatedly stumbled on a very good arts blog (hosted by ArtsJournal) by one Andrew Taylor, who, among other things, runs an Arts Admin program at Madison Wisconsin. Here's an interesting post of his on that recent study about America's increasing commute time.

What does this mean for cultural institutions? If your facility is in the downtown core, it means your potential audience has a longer drive home, and may not even be coming downtown anymore. If your facility is in the suburbs, your audience may be coming home tired and ready to cocoon. But if you're creative about when and how you connect with an audience, there are lots of interesting ideas awaiting (podcast interviews with your artists for listening in the car, short and early commuter concerts to keep audiences downtown just long enough for the roads to clear, and on and on).

I have a bad reflexive reaction against the podcast idea--but perhaps it would be an interesting way to extend program notes?

Aside from that, though, he's absolutely right about the problem now theatres and concert halls still being downtown when no one lives there. I used to get excited about those plans to build more arts institutions in the cities to bring folks downtown. But I'm not sure that's working. So many of our cities are just ghost towns at night and their nighttime/weekend business all stolen by the malls.

So bring the art to the people, I say! Bring it to where they live. Even if that means the "exurbs."


Contrapositive said...

Before Katrina, at least, the Southern Rep was housed on the second floor of a high-end mall a few blocks outside the French Quarter. (Not sure where they are now.) It seemed to work nicely for them.

I think you're right: Build theaters where the people are.

Anonymous said...

People's Light and Theatre Company deep in the Philadelphia suburbs is successful enough to have maintained a permanent acting company (which means benefits, etc. for actors) for years and years.

Art said...

The opinion Journal had an article on the Arts growing in suburbia back in 2005.

Big concert halls are being built near large shopping centers.

RB Ripley said...

Sadly, until the tax benefits and government / business relationships are given to public transport rather than the automobile infrastructure, our cities will continue a slow decline as the suburbs continue to sprawl.

In terms of the Theatre and its survival, it seems that looking at the issue through the question of what's most important? That we continue to grow the audience or where the audience sees a show? For me, that's a no brainer.

I'm curious as to why you're reaction was so strongly against podcasts? It's a terrific idea to offer program notes, but also get folks involved with more than the actors who usually get interviewed. Exposing newer audience members to all facets of the theatre from acting and directing to writing and design can only serve to spark interest.