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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Praxis Theatre survey: identifying a knowledge gap

We asked:
I would go to more independent theatre if . . .

You said:In-depth analysis:
First, the easy stuff. According to these results, big name actors, clear distinctions between companies and comedic theatre all rate low on people’s list of independent theatre expectations.

Cost seems to be a factor among only a minority of respondents: one person wants lower ticket prices, another wants money-back guarantees.

Two people voted for improved marketing materials. (More on this below.)

And another two said they want productions that are more accessible (presumably in regards to a production
s content).

These numbers are hardly conclusive, but as we move toward the higher-rated options, we see clearer definition in the responses and – by design – greater consensus.

The winners:
Given the format of this poll, were not sure the most popular answers qualify as “winners”. Let’s, instead, call this “insight”.

The insight:
Four respondents expressed a desire for increased quality in their independent theatre experience. There’s obviously a discussion to be had about what exactly is meant by “quality” and how to achieve it. Maybe we can put this one into our 10 questions rotation: “What do you think is the single greatest barrier to producing quality independent theatre?”

Another four respondents expressed interest in being able to buy tickets for a bunch of shows at one time.

But the most popular response to our survey was from people who feel they need to know more about independent theatre: What is independent theatre? What makes it independent? What are the benefits of independent theatre over mainstream and established theatre? How do I know which shows to go to?

Maybe there
s a link between this knowledge gap and the respondents who felt that marketing materials need to improve.

Obviously, this survey raised many more questions than it answered. But one thing seems clear: the more people we can entice into our theatres, the more work we
ll be able to produce. If theres a gap between what independent theatre artists are doing and public perceptions of that work, its seems a worthwhile pursuit to examine our communications strategies with renewed vigour.

If anyone has further thoughts on this, let
’s continue the discussion.

5 comments:

mike said...

Okay I have shitloads of opinions on this, so I'll try to be concise and only address one og these issues. I would define Independent Theatre in Toronto as anything that is not produced BY (as opposed to AT) Tarragon, Canstage, Factory, Passe Muraille, Buddies, Soulpepper, Mirvish or anything on Yonge St. I'm sure the Dora committee has codified this somehow.

I think the quality thing is just a reflection of many people having had the misfortune of being stuck in a really bad show. Unlike the movies, you can't leave. All those things that make theatre so powerful when it's good - the immediacy of being in the same space as the performers - the sense that it will only be this way once - also make the show that much worse when its bad. So people want increased quality. And who can blame them? There's increased risk compared to going to a film. At least if you go see the Leafs and they suck you can still have a couple of beers and talk to your buddy. When theatre lacks quality you may do nothing but suffer in silence.

Ian said...

I was talking to someone on Friday who argued that Blue Man Group was part of the avant garde. I haven't seen it, but had assumed it was mainstream . . .

Are there specific economic/popular alliances a production has to have (or not have) to be considered "independent"?

mike said...

blue man is part of the avant garde if you consider their groundbreaking attempts to screw over the theatre union in this country new and exciting.. and hey, i'm nonunion - but i would like to see those big venues have good wages and job security etc. so if i ever got one of those gigs i would be treated as a professional and receive a reasonable share of the box. they are produced by clearchannel, which has gotta be one of the more evil and profit centred media organizations around. oh yeah, they closed, really early, see ya blue man. thanks for fixin up the theatre too.

Amrita said...

food for thought: Does "independent" mean seperate from a location?

Ian said...

Interesting idea Amrita. I think the ideas of location and venue are huge when it comes to defining what independent theatre is.