The times, they are a changin’

For more than a century, Theatre as an institution has been facing a challenge of audience interest. While theatre along with sports were the principal sources of popular public entertainment for thousands of years, the advent of the moving picture, followed by the proliferation of television sounded a warning that Theatre as an art form may no longer be a mainstay of public interest.

If movies weren’t enough of a challenge in their efforts of dramatization, television piped in and offers theatrically inspired drama on a cost-free basis. This one-two punch is a fundamental challenge to the arts in general and theatre most specifically.

Not too long ago, the habit was to plan an evening around theatre, confer with friends, pick a show, find a dining spot and then execute the plan. Now theatres are finding that they sell most of their tickets on the day of performance. The spontaneity of choice has become a significant factor in the decision of what we want to see.

For theatres to meet the challenge, they need to do a number of things. The first is to find their voice. What is the message of the show, who or what does it impact, is it relevant, and is it entertaining? If this challenge is not met, then seeing theatre “x” doing a production of “y” is much like watching reruns on TV. It’s a choice, but not the one that gets people excited.

Having found the voice, how does a theatre go about letting the world know it’s there and has something to say? Especially here in Los Angeles, where we live in a very diverse community that covers a lot of acreage, how does a theatre find an audience beyond those that already know they exist? And, if going to a show is about an evening, having a cocktail, or dinner, or communing with friends, how does the theatre-goer without knowledge of the neighborhood satisfy the need.

FootLights has the answer. It’s going to take some time, and some co-operation from the theatres, but we are implementing a solution that is as close as your smartphone. By going to our app, be it for IOS or Android, you can find shows near you and you can find show wherever you’re going. There you can see what a show is about, look through the program to see who is in it, and what the artists have to say, and in short order, you will be seeing an amalgamation of reviews and audience responses to each show to help find a production for you.

Starting this month, we’re also going to begin reviewing and ultimately listing restaurants near theatres. For the time being, the review will be found on our website, gofootlights.com/dining. Ingrid Wilmot, a member of the Southern California Restaurant Writers, will be giving us her educated opinion on many of these establishments. As the list grows, we will begin associating restaurants to the theatres around them.

There are a great many reasons to go to theatre. The experience and intimacy is not replicable. Every show you see is an opportunity to visit and travel a time and place different from your own. Theatre is about experiencing as well as seeing, and now, we’re hoping to expand that experience by offering you more opportunities. Follow us, get the app, and we will help you find adventures heretofore unknown.

About Peter Finlayson

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Peter Finlayson is the Founder, Publisher and Editor-in-chief of FootLights magazine and footlight.click. While working on a prelaw program at the University of Michigan, he happily got involved with the theatre program. Much to his mother’s chagrin, law school never happened, but in a career spanning more than 4 decades, Peter has performed, directed or designed more than 150 productions. In his spare time, he is working on a new play. You can follow him on Twitter @Thtrdog .

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