Sunday, November 15, 2009

Who's in Your Full Circle

On Saturday, at the kind invitation of Jason, I attended to the Who's In Your Circle even at Woolly Mammoth - which consisted of a performance of the play Full Circle and a multi-room discussion on the nature of Woolly Mammoth's mission, purpose, art as part of the institutions 30th anniversary.

I won't talk too much about the show except to say that it was really wonderful to see a theater company try to user all of their space from the lobby to the stage of the main theater in amusing and unexpected ways. I said to Jason afterward that although it worked well in this context, it would have been an amazing first show in the Woolly Mammoth space.

The discussions, afterward were really got me thinking (as I'm sure was intended). The main discussion that Jason and I sat in was on the nature of the audience. To quote the question: "Who should our [ie Woolly's] audience be, how does their identity impact our work, and what would it take to get them in the door." The focus of the dialogue was more on the first point of the question, especially because Woolly and DC are unique entities.

Many of the folks began by suggesting that Woolly's audience should better represent the city, demographically, and trumpeted the idea of outreach. But it's not quite that simple. Should there be more theater performances for young folks or different communities? Yes, absolutely. Is it Woolly's place to do all of this outreach? For the most part, probably not. Woolly is not an institution that is about easy art, their slogan is "Defy Convention". In that sense it's more like the Velvet Lounge than Nissan Pavilion.

Often, but not always, good art is about challenging the audience and Woolly unambiguously focuses on that challenging art. But are there still ways for an institution to reach out and get people crossing boundaries? How about events that bridge different art forms. Could you do a series of one-acts along with a few bands in between? Sure. Or you could bridge the theater crowd. How about selling discount tickets that have a show at Woolly and a show at Shakespeare Theater? Get the older crowd seeing a Woolly show and the comparatively young crowd at Shakespeare.

One really important point from the discussion came when one participant admitted that honestly she doesn't go to many shows at Woolly shows. Not every theater, or concert, or book, or art gallery is for everyone, and no amount of outreach will get a "perfect" audience. I don't think in a million years theater and classical music will skew as young as rock concerts and movies, but if you work hard and promote right you can get attention and the adventurous people will find you. The Wordless Music Series is the best example I have in music, a half-classical half contemporary series of shows that, while skewing rock, is still getting the indie kids to see string quartets.

1 comment:

Dialectric said...

I thought i had posted a comment here... and then I thought the author asked about it, and now I have come back to answer a question about my comment, and it is all gone.....