Sunday, August 12, 2007

Half of all Professional Theater Productions are not Reviewed.

Those of us involved with children's theater are already aware of something that most people probably haven't noticed; we don't get reviewed.

In some cases this is understandable: for example, shows that tour. They go directly to schools, and few reporters have access to these portable productions. Others don't meet the minimum criteria for coverage: they run a single weekend, or they're produced by an amateur group for a limited run.

But professional theaters in South Florida do produce high-quality children's theater, and put them on stages where parents can bring their kids into the theater for an hour of culture. There are at least THREE companies dedicated exclusively to shows for children. THESE performances are as easy to schedule coverage for as any other theater production. And yet not one of the area's newspapers ever sends anyone to check them out.

Yes, there are calendar listings, and editors do a pretty good job of making sure that pictures of various productions are featured, giving parents - and children - a glimpse of what's available on stage. Those pictures rotate every week to give all the theaters some coverage. BUT; a picture doesn't tell you about the show. Is it well-lit? Can you hear all the actors over the music? Can you hear the music? Is there music?

And how do the kids react? Will a skittish four-year old who's afraid of owls run screaming to the lobby? Does the show connect with kids, or does it have a relevant message? The theaters may included a suggested age, but is that suggested age range really accurate?

Frankly, reviews do more than tell audiences if the play is worth seeing; they engage a potential patron's attention for just a moment. Reviews have ALWAYS been a key method of informing audiences about a show. Ads help, word of mouth is always your best advertising, but newspapers get into a huge number of homes and businesses. The major newspapers are thus failing the arts community.

The Miami Herald, the Palm Beach Post, and the Sun-Sentinel are failing their readership. One story a year can't be construed as coverage of children's theater, or children's programming in general. Parents are looking for things to do with their children EVERY WEEK. Can it be a coincidence that as newspapers reduce the amount of news in their papers, readership falls? If your product doesn't contain enough information to make it a worthwhile purchase, people won't purchase it.

And they are missing a lot of coverage: every professional theater has a children's theater program. More children than adults see live theater in South Florida. The major newspapers are failing their readership in a big way.

School is getting underway; theater companies are gearing up for a new season of shows for kids. It's time for the Herald, the Sun-Sentinel, and the Palm Beach Post to start studying the schedules, and planning how they will cover this frontier. Kids count. Give them something to count on.

1 comment:

  1. Maybe if they start having open bars at the opening, the leeching failed mean, critics will show up.