On Lincoln Center Theater and Arthritic Demographics

Happy, but aging out.

Well, if you read between the lines in this piece in the New York Sun, it seems as if Lincoln Center Theater artistic director Andre Bishop is recognizing that the graying of New York audiences is something of an understatement. And so the organization, arguably one of the five most monied theatre nonprofits in the city (the other four being the Public, Roundabout, MTC, and, I’d guess Playwrights Horizons) has established LCT3, beginning with two productions at the Duke for $20 apiece. (Does anyone remember when LCT came back from the dead in the mid-’80s and all tickets were $20 — or something like that — and you could still get on their subscription list? Today you’ve got to scan the Times obituaries and run like hell in order to get on that list.)

Anyway, check this quote from the story:

Story continues below.

The artistic director of Lincoln Center Theater, André Bishop, said the goal is to replenish Lincoln Center “with new generations of writers and directors and designers and audiences” and to “broaden the scope and diversity” of the work the theater produces.

And speaking of Paige Evans, who is heading up the program:

Ms. Evans said she saw the position as “an incredible opportunity.” Asked if she had a staff to read the scripts that will no doubt start pouring in the door from playwrights and agents, she said that “at this point, I’ll be doing it all myself.” She said she was eager to work with downtown theaters and small theaters around the country to share information about up-and-coming artists.

Like many theaters, Lincoln Center Theater has worries about the “graying” of its audience. Mr. Bishop said he was confident that the audience would be replenished, but that it would take time.

Now, let’s be clear about a few things, especially for the nonprofit haters out there. LCT can do this because they have the funds. And they cannot bring the work of “downtown theaters and small theaters around the country” because the denizens of Geezerville will bolt. And this, I grant you, is one of the real problems with large institutional nonprofits: they can’t take the kinds of chances that small theaters can because they’ve got tens of thousands of people to make happy every year. But at least Bishop is recognizing this problem, and recognizing his demographic problem, and attempting to do something about it.

As for whether Evans will have any taste, or be out 12 nights a week seeing new work, or actually suggest work that would recognize the extraordinary indie theater talent — well, that remains to be seen. The question, too, is whether the indie theater world will GET UP AND DO SOMETHING and approach her as well.