This week I attended a reading produced by one of my favorite theatre companies. Known for top-notch productions of classic American work, they know their niche and have developed it beautifully by creating and promoting a consistent — and consistently great — product.
As I surveyed the audience, I realized I was in the severe minority for not having gray hair, squinting at the stage, or dozing off during the performance (through no fault of the play itself). Thinking back to other productions, I recalled that the audience always skewed Boomer or older, which I’d before enjoyed as an entertaining parade of New York’s seasoned theatergoers.
As you can imagine, my marketer heart started beating faster than a pacemaker could manage - how would this company survive long-term if its audience might not make it to the next decade?
I sat there involuntarily brainstorming ways to capture new, younger audiences: sleeker branding! Tweets! Guest artists! Partnerships with downtown companies! Exclusive blogger events! Forget 2010, they’d be winning Drama Desk Awards in 2050!
But none of this seemed genuine, and why would they risk alienating their core audience, the audience that has supported them enthusiastically for the last 20 years?
More to the point: we’re talking art, and this company is wholly the extension of one particular artistic director’s vision, experience, direction, and mentorship. Should the company live on once he retires?
In the same way that artists themselves represent an era, a voice pertinent to their time, couldn’t it be just as appropriate for arts organizations to dedicate themselves to being relevant within their area of expertise for as long as it makes sense, then gracefully take their bow and exit the stage at their story’s logical conclusion?
If your organization is inextricably tied with a moment in time, its founding artists, or an audience that has since shifted, consider that the most artistic approach for longevity is to produce, pause, then regroup with a new vision and fresh relevancy for tomorrow.