I love theatre and Broadway shows and the theatre community but that doesn’t mean that Broadway is flawless. The theatre community is a wonderful, accepting, fun group of people, however theatre-goers, to a certain extent, are an elite community. Broadway, and theatre in general, is largely inaccessible (for several reasons) to most of the world, which is unfortunate because theatre tells great stories through great music and acting and it’s a chance to connect with like minded people. If we want to change the future of theatre there are some things that need to be fixed or at least addressed.
Problem #1: The Physical Geography
Theatre is very centralized in New York City. This makes sense because this is where Broadway is, which is the ultimate stage and destination for any piece of theatre. If you live in New York City or the Eastern Seaboard of the United States where you can get to NYC in a couple of hours at most, that’s great. But what about the other 6 978 600 000 people in the world? (I got that number by subtracting the population of the world [roughly 7.3 billion] from the population of the USA [about 321 million]). Fortunately, many successful Broadway shows go on National Tours but those are generally contained to the United States. Sometimes Canadian cities like Toronto, Ottawa, and Vancouver get lucky and the Tours go there. But what about people in say Australia? Or China? Or Brazil? While I understand that theatre is part of North American culture, and might not be common everywhere in the world, I’m 99% sure there are people who love theatre who live in these countries that have NEVER seen a professional live show before. Getting on a plane and going to NYC or even a city where a National Tour is playing and then getting tickets to a 2.5 hour show is expensive and is just not possible for most people. Even people in Canada and the United States have trouble going to see theatre they really want to see because shows on Broadway generally don’t stay open forever (Unless you’re Wicked or Chicago or Phantom of the Opera) since there’s only 41 theatres with new shows being created all the time. Which brings me to problem number 2.
Problem #2: Bootlegs
**Before I get started on this let me say this: I disagree with bootleg culture because a) bootlegs are never good quality and nothing in the world compares to live theatre and b) the artists worked hard to create a piece of theatre that is meant to be seen live and c) it is illegal…HOWEVER, if there is a bootleg out there for a show that I know I will never get to see or has closed or whatever I will most likely watch it (after resisting watching for as long as I can) and just because I’ve seen a bootleg doesn’t mean I don’t want to see the show live because like I said, nothing in the world compares to live theatre.**
Bootleg culture (and by bootleg culture I mean people who actively search for and watch bootlegs and even those who record them) only exists because theatre is so inaccessible and most shows only stay open for so long. It’s a culture around sharing otherwise inaccessible theatre. Last spring, Tuck Everlasting opened on Broadway. This was one of my favourite books as a child and some of my favourite actors were starring in it. But the show closed after only 28 previews and 39 performances. This was a show that I really wanted to see and I tried to get to NYC to see it but I couldn’t. But I watched it through a bootleg and I so wish I had seen it live. Think about people who live on the other side of the world who can’t get to NYC but who heard a cast album and the cast album spoke to them, bootlegs might be the only way that they ever get to see the show. I did this with Next to Normal. I understand that bootlegs are disrespectful to the art of theatre but ultimately they do allow people to see the show in some capacity.
Problem #3: Ticket Prices
I took first year economics so I understand the basics of inelastic supply and demand. Broadway theatres only have so many seats and sometimes the demand for tickets just drives the price up and up and up because it’s all about people’s willingness to pay (which is why shows like Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen are so expensive). But there has to be a limit because honestly paying $400-$600 for a single ticket is a little ridiculous (and I’m not just saying that because I’m a broke student). Even the rush and student prices for shows are a little bit ridiculous too. And this isn’t even just Broadway. Any theatre ticket purchased in advance is going to be at least between $80-$120+. I understand a bit about how the business of theatre works (largely thanks to Smash tbh) – producers get people to invest, sometimes millions, in a show who ultimately want to turn a profit and in order to make a profit you have to have a certain minimum ticket price. But still, if you want people to see the show, people have to be able to afford to go to the show. This isn’t even mentioning the travel costs of getting to see theatre, whether it’s in NYC or not if you don’t live near somewhere where there’s theatre regularly. Theatre should not be exclusively for the upper class who have lots of money and disposable income.
So how do we fix these problems and make Broadway more accessible to theatre lovers around the world? There’s no easy answer but there are some things that can be done.
1) Professionally filmed recordings of ALL Broadway shows – Newsies did this and released it in movie theatres AROUND THE WORLD and it was a huge success and now it’s even coming to digital copies in a few weeks. Hamilton also did this but the footage has been locked in a Gringotts vault for now. I truly believe that this is the future of theatre and all shows should be preserved like this, regardless of if they ever get shown to the public or not.
2) Expand the licensing rights of shows – If producers could license the shows to creators and creative teams around the world, people in so many other countries would be able to see the shows (and would contribute to the overall revenue of the show).
3) Set a maximum ticket price – I know the evil ticketbots make this hard but the reality is, millennials are the future of theatre. But millennials also aren’t going to have the disposable income and steady jobs that their parents and baby boomers had. Millennials are also going to be in so much debt from school and student loans. We want to be able to see theatre, we really do but right now theatre is too expensive.
The theatre is a wonderful, welcoming, inspiring place but things need to change. The theatre should be a place for everyone because there are so many important stories that are told and shared in the theatre, not just for those who can afford it in a certain part of the world. The world so desperately needs the influence of theatre and the creatives behind it all but if they want it to have global influence (as it should) then we need to work on making theatre more accessible to everyone around the world.
What are your thoughts on this? Let me know in the comments!