Arts | October 13th, 2020

Experts Fear for The Grim Future of Theater

By: Kelsey Gilmore
Experts Fear for The Grim Future of Theater

The theater is an ancient art that uses live actors to display a story. The theater has been around for thousands of years and is considered one of the biggest forms of entertainment. With the addition of computer graphics and modern technology, some theater experts speculate if the ancient art form may be dying. 

Theater professional and costume designer for FAMU’s Essential Theater Edith Carnley expressed how theater may be out of touch with reality, which has caused some of the large crowds’ theaters used to have to dwindle. 

“It doesn’t easily fit into our modern technological world,” Carnley said. “Theater is not as convenient as clicking through your phone. You have to be physically present and that is inconvenient for some.” 

The price to attend a theater show may range from $14 to $300 depending on the theater and show you attend. Bryan Mitchell, the theater director at Apalachee Elementary School, believes the price to attend theater is what is driving people away from the seats.  

“It doesn’t matter what movie you go see, the ticket price will generally stay the same no matter how popular it is,” Mitchell said. “But, if you want to see a popular musical or play production you could be paying hundreds of dollars for a single ticket. People just aren’t willing to do that when there are other options.” 

Theaters have had to come up with strategies to fill the seats by offering complimentary tickets, half-off ticket sales and subscription packages. 

National and local theaters in the United States have been closed due to the recent pandemic and theater experts believe this break will be beneficial to the future of the industry. Arts director of the Quincy Music Theater Naomi Rosemock believes that Broadway and the rest of the industry should take advantage of this opportunity. 

“I think that theater needs to evolve post-COVID to be more accessible in order to stay relevant,” Rosemock said. “I do think theater needs to learn from Hamilton and start streaming more to reach younger audiences.” 

Hamilton is the Broadway musical telling the story of Alexander Hamilton and how he shaped America. The play features a cast composed of mostly minorities and musical genres like rap, which has not been utilized in theater productions to that degree. The musical received a record of 16 Tony Award nominations. 

The musical later struck a deal with Disney Plus, the online streaming service for television shows and movies, to show a recording of the performance from 2016. 

When asked about their attendance in the theatre, some students said they are more interested in movies for the amount of control they have over them. Junior food science major Kayla Braggs believes people are choosing streaming movies more than attending live theater because movies allow you to have certain control over them. 

“Teens are more interested in instant gratification and the concept of sitting through a play in real-time is tedious,” Braggs said. “With movies, they can come back and forth at their leisure. A play must be done in one sitting and that takes patience.” 

Many theatre experts believe the pandemic may hurt the remaining professional theaters. Professional theaters will remain closed until the fall of 2021 when social distancing restrictions will hopefully be lifted. However, some of the shows will not open back up in the new year. Popular shows, such as “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and The Hangman,” that were in previews before the pandemic have announced that they will not reopen. 

Theaters mainly get their income from ticket sales and now that the doors are closed, theaters will have to rely on grants and donations. 

In an interview done by Regerts-Camden NewsNow, an associate professor of theater at the University of California Kenneth Elliot believes that theaters will have a long and difficult road ahead of them to stay afloat and keep their doors open. 

“Theater depends on actors and audiences gathering at a specific time and place for a communal experience,” he said. “There’s no telling when that can happen again.”

Other professionals in the industry refute the notion that theater may be a thing of the past. Although theater may have to compete with multi-million-dollar movies and television shows, experts like Evelyn Tyler, prop master for FAMU’s Essential Theater, believes in the statistics. 

“I believe if you consider the market in which theater resides in, you’ll see and determine how popular it is,” Tyler said. “Due to the increased number of playwrights, I believe theater has gained strong momentum.” 

Kimberly Harding, stage manager for professional productions and the Essential Theater, agrees with her coworker. 

 “There is nothing like live theater,” Harding said. “There will always be an audience for it.” 

National Theatre announced they will officially remain closed for the rest of the year and plan to refund tickets up through January 2021.