There’s this thing called market share. You may have heard of it. It’s a pretty literal term measuring how big your slice of the pie is. For some calculations the pie is made of money and for others it’s a cannibal’s pie made of people.
I’m concerned about the cannibal pie right now. Audience. And what I really want to know is: how big is this pie? When I first started thinking about pies and such I had a little revelation: there are no slices in this pie, the market isn’t saturated. The same people who watch the Mechanicals’ Rep season will go check out the Artscape Spring Season and pop into Kalk Bay to see what’s playing there. Like most of my revelations it got replaced by another one that said the opposite in a louder voice. Having been at the opening of the Pink Couch’s Mafeking Road last week at the Intimate and of Solomon and Marion on Saturday at the Baxter I could use my keen powers of observation to tell that they were completely different people. Of course that’s a pretty small data set – statistically insignificant is the term – but it supports the slice analogy, and a good analogy is totally awesome.
Now there are two ways to increase the size of your slice: Take someone else’s or make the pie bigger.
So because stealing is frowned upon in our society unless you have a official title it stands to reason that we need to make the pie bigger to make our slice big enough to fill our stomachs for the month. That’s one of the goals of the Pink Couch – get the next generation watching theatre. Pretty sweet goal. But it should also be one of the goals of the big companies. Right now Solomon and Marion is R130 for students. That’s pretty steep for students. But it’s also a fair price. And is Solomon and Marion really aimed at the next generation anyway?
The big theatres have the big slices of the pie, fair enough. They’ve been around for ages, they build and maintain audience bases, they provide secure employment in an industry where most people don’t know what they’ll be doing in 4 months, they have programmes promoting and supporting new work. But maybe that first revelation I had wasn’t so crazy after all. What if the pie can be shared? What if there was pin board up at the Baxter or the Artscape or the Fugard that listed productions at other venues? By small, independent companies? The more theatre people see, the more they’ll want to see and the pie will miraculously get bigger.
The market isn’t saturated. We can afford to say that there’s other theatre out there. Let the big theatres have their big slice and share it too, and let the independents work on making the pie bigger. After all the tattooed hipster of today is the tattooed ballie of tomorrow and we need to get him into the auditorium now if he’s going to be shelling out R180 for a ticket tomorrow.