The theatre, according to scholar Dr. Kazimierz Braun, is comprised of two main pieces: actor and audience. Without both pieces existing in communion with one another, theatre cannot exist. The art of acting is one based in subjectivity, usually judged in quality by the reaction of the audience. What do audience members think? How do they see the theatre? After surveying a number of non-acting Chicago theatre audiences, this is some of the answers.
Do you like the theatre? Why or why not?
The general consensus is a unanimous yes! Some Chicagoans reference the escape of daily routine, while others enjoy the stories being told. One individual states, “It is fun for me to do something different than going to the movies or just out dancing.”
When was the last time you were at the theatre? Where did you go? What did you see?
The average response implied that one or two months had passed since their previous visit to the theatre. The people surveyed, seem to attend smaller non-equity theatres like Red Tape than the larger equity houses. On the opposite end of the spectrum, one individual last saw a show outside of Chicago at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park (Gee’s Bend), and another had not seen a show since November 2010 (In the Jungle of Cities). That is a five to six month gap.
What do you feel are appropriate price ranges for theatres to charge for tickets?
The prices that most commonly occur seem to range between $15 and $20. The lowest price given was $8 and the highest was $30.
How much do you think the average actor makes (either per week, per full run of show)?
The audience that was surveyed seemed to not even be able to guess a specific income. Most responses fall in complete conjunction with statements like this one: “Not enough. I know that much.” Some guesstimates fall between the $300-$700/month ranges. Unbeknownst to them, as seen in previous articles, the assumed price range is relatively accurate on a well-to-do month for a non-equity actor. Unfortunately, for actors, there seems to be a correlation between the reality of what they are paid and what audience members feel is an appropriate price range for tickets, yet audiences seem to think actors should be paid more. Where does the extra money come from then?
What do you feel is the purpose of the theatre?
Overwhelmingly, the responses continually had one word in constant repetition – entertainment. This falls in full simpatico with the idea that audiences view theatre as a sense of escape from daily grinds. There were a number who stated art and expression. One individual very concretely and articulately said, “Theater is meant to entertain, inspire, enlighten, educate, and bring about a sense of community.”
What would make you want to go to the theatre more often?
This is arguably the most important question for actors, and theatre-folk alike, to consider. Two inherent problems consistently are brought up by audience members – high ticket prices and poor marketing. People cannot afford theatre ticket prices, especially in this economic state. Also, audiences complain about not knowing that certain plays are even happening. Sometimes proximity, or lack thereof, to public transportation is an issue.
Although this survey was not filled out by anywhere near the number of Chicagoans that are not in the theatre by profession, there is still some insight into the audience members’ minds that can be useful, informative, and critical in the management and reconfiguring of how theatres run their business.
If there are non-acting Chicagoans that are interested in submitting their answers to this survey for furthering the analysis of the audience perspective, please email all answers to firstname.lastname@example.org.