LA: Theatre Town

If you have to ask the question, Is LA a Theatre Town?, then you’ve not been to LA. As a city we mount more live stage productions then any other city anywhere in the world. Yes, more then NY, more then Chicago, more then London, More then anyone anywhere else.

The conversation should be, why don’t we stop worrying about whether or not we are a theatre town, and engage in the making of brilliant theatre. Find the voice that speaks to your audience, then engage them in a fashion that will demand their attention.

Here’s a hint, you’re not getting their attention through cheap tickets, you’re not getting their attention through free tickets. You’re getting their attention if you speak to their needs. If you’re waiting for reviewers to bring in the crowds you’re missing the boat, by the time that voice is heard you’ve probably closed, and that review doesn’t address your next show.

Folks, believe it or not, LA is a theatre town. In fact for many it’s a theatre destination. Only our own unwillingness to value the work limits us from claiming the crown. We don’t believe that our shows are good enough to draw an audience from the next block, so we don’t tell them we’ve got a show. We so little value our efforts that we are willing to let our tickets go for pennies on the hope that someone somewhere will hear about us and be willing to plunk down their money to some discounter.

Here’s another hint, Goldstar, or other discounters add fees to your ticket prices. The audience ends up paying more then half price, in some cases it’s nearly the full price and you the creator, the producer, reap no reward.

All this is to speak to the fact that while we do have a theatre town, we the theatre makers don’t think it’s worth anything. If we did, we’d tell the world. We wouldn’t ask ourselves if this is a Theatre Town. We wouldn’t wait for someone to do it for us, we’d be on the roof tops yelling it out, WE HAVE GREAT THEATRE. Instead we whimper through brokers and agents, please come see my show, we sheepishly look at our audiences and tell them I’ll make it cheap for you, I’ll get you a free pass, please come see my show. Yep, don’t see much of that marketing on Broadway.

Claim the prize, we are a theatre town, let’s act like one.

About Peter Finlayson

Peter Finlayson is the Founder, Publisher and Editor-in-chief of FootLights magazine and 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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