How can we Inspire Young People to see Theatre as Cool

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The following is a report produced at Devoted and Disgruntled 6 during a session in which I asked the following question:

“I am young, theatre is not cool enough to go to.”
How can we inspire young people to see theatre as cool?

During the session the following points, statements and questions were raised.

To get something as “cool” you have to get young people to go. (Cinema?)
– How can you force someone young to go. They have to go on their own will.
– Does it relate to theatres use of marketing? Are we not marketing theatre to young people correctly?
– Parents fund for their children to attend gigs and the cinema, but why not the theatre?
– Theatre is seen as sitting on the outside of “cool”.
– Local authorities websites under their ‘what’s on’ section, always put Theatre separately – as if it is something different.
– Theatre buildings are not good at marketing to young people.
– Theatre websites often look like local authority websites – where is the fun and excitement in them?
– Does it relate to the atmosphere of a theatre, and its buildings? Are theatres not allowing themselves to be assessable for young people and therefore creating a resistance.
– Linked to schools taking their students to the theatre. How does theatre appeal to young people outside of the Education system?
– Are the rules of theatre too strict – cinema allows people to get up and go as they see fit, theatre is stricter.
– Is it a matter of the productions not engaging with young people instead of the building/marketing. Do productions engage with the world of young people.
– Thinking beyond the usual engagement to get young people to see theatre as more than just one night. Setting up YouTube channels
– Production values should be higher to engage young people.
– Are regional theatres assessable for younger audiences – are they just playing to the same demographic?
– Young people only like things that are cool, if something is hot, or a trend. They often want things they can’t have… therefore, are sold out theatre shows seen as cool because you can’t actually get tickets for them?
– What happens when young people become part of the process of making theatre?
– Roundhouse used as an example of an organisation that puts young people into the core work, and is developed with the same team that programmes the main space.
– If young people are in a show, do these shows sell well to young people purely because their friends are in it? Are they only seeing it because of them?
– Collaborating with young people might be the key.
– Germany has different attitudes. Young people wouldn’t be “seen dead” going to the theatre with their parents.
– Do we need to create a new language and/or code to communicate with young people?
– “No one could get into my world” – is there a path into a young persons world without being patronising?
– Discussion went into two defined areas: a) Young People as participants in the process, and b) Young people seeing theatre.
– You don’t have to participate to go to the theatre, just like you don’t have to participate in films to go to the cinema.
– We are producing too much ‘bad theatre’. Why would young people want to see such bad work in the first place?
– Do we look beyond the conventional theatre spaces to help the engagement – possibly site specific work. Do we trick young people into witnessing theatre?
– Celebrities in theatre – does it make it cool?
– Why are no purely theatre actors seen as celebrities/cool? But someone like David Tennant is seen as both?
– What impact has the Andrew Lloyd Webber TV ‘Finding A…’ had to get young people interested in theatre?
– Has Glee inspired young people – but Glee’s characters are all based around outcasts who want to get into theatre. Are we really the outcasts?
– What does “cool” actually mean? How do we define it?
– Does the question relate to the branding of theatre – why have big brands such as Facebook suddenly sprung up and become cool, and the thing to do for young people?
– For something to be cool does it have to come from the underground – an underground movement?
– What is cool within the industry is not cool outside of the industry – this constantly switches back and forth.
– Why do young people not go to the theatre on their own? Because they don’t know how. (Schools sort tickets out for students, parents sort tickets out for their children. Why do they not teach the excitement of going into the box office to buy a ticket?)
– What impact did A Night Less Ordinary have upon getting young people into the theatre?
– Data shows that young people have not been going to the theatre for years. There is a significant gap between children, and adults, where young people literally do not attend theatre. This is nothing new, and this is not going to change. Why are we so keen to get young people to the theatre when they haven’t been going for years and years?
– Theatre is depression.
– I listen to Radio Four, but I never would have as a young person. Radio Four demographics aren’t young people. There is a distinct gap in ages. Argument: Radio Four is one channel on a spectrum of Radio as a whole. Young people do listen to Radio One, and other channels. Relating to theatre, we’re not talking about a certain channel or genre of theatre – we’re talking about ALL theatre.
– Isn’t it depressing that young people don’t like going to the theatre? Isn’t it depressing to only see older people?
– What is theatre actually for? It is not JUST for young people, so why make it into that?
– Look at Street Theatre Festival in Barcelona. A free festival which gets hundreds/thousands of young people going, and they watch the theatre. It’s an event.
– Is theatre too expensive? Would I rather pay for theatre or eat rice for a week?
– Everyone at D&D comes from those individuals as young people who were enthralled by theatre – the outcasts, the minorities. Are we all freaks and outcasts here?
– Are theatre’s now using a ‘trojan horse’ style of attack to pretend it’s not theatre, and to get young people to come and see it.
– Why are we trying to change it in the first place? Does it matter? Why don’t we just let it be.
– Intelligence is frowned upon by young people. Should we make theatre marketing with “adult only” written on it, to get young people wanting to go see something that is aimed at adults, instead of them as young people?
– Theatre is not inspirational enough to young people. It doesn’t offer the same inspirational values that fashion or film can offer. How do we make theatre more aspirational?
– What is over, is over.