Academic journal article Australasian Drama Studies

On the Record: An Account of Regional Non-Theatregoers' Responses to a Selection of Plays Toured to Northern Australia in 2004-05

Academic journal article Australasian Drama Studies

On the Record: An Account of Regional Non-Theatregoers' Responses to a Selection of Plays Toured to Northern Australia in 2004-05

Article excerpt

When groups of regional non-theatregoers experience a selection of plays and then report that most enjoyed them, could understand them, could relate to them, and would like to see more of them, the obvious questions to ask are: 'Why were they non-theatregoers?' and 'How can we ensure that they now return?' This paper details regional non-theatregoers' (or new audiences') reception of plays to demonstrate how theatre is perceived by the recently introduced. By better understanding new audiences and their reception of plays, more effective decisions can be made to impact on the creation of new work, the programming of seasonal repertoire, and the marketing of plays with this significant segment of the community in mind. Likewise, the non-theatregoers' introduction to 'the world of theatre' enables them to directly experience live plays and to become more knowledgeable about what the theatre has to offer and how they might engage with it. 'By paying attention to audience needs and wants, we can learn how to provide entertainment experiences that are enriching and satisfying.'1

Talking Theatre: An Audience Development Programme for Regional Queensland and the Northern Territory (2004-06)2 was a three-year research project that sought to build new audiences for fourteen regional performing arts centres (PACs). All were members of the Northern Australia Regional Performing Arts Centres Association (NARPACA).3 The Talking Theatre project gathered and analysed the reception of a sample of regional non-theatregoers to a selection of performances presented in Queensland and in the Northern Territory in 2004 and 2005. The research also endeavoured to develop a profile of non-theatregoers in regional areas; to understand their reasons for non-attendance; to identify their cultural and creative needs; and to discover their reactions to the PACs who presented them with a range of live performances to attend.

The Talking Theatre project was applied to PACs in northern Australia and to a selection of non-theatregoers residing in the regions because, it was argued, 'The future of the arts depends on finding new supporters/markets outside of current traditional support; e.g., non-theatregoers and regional populations'.4 The Regional Audience Development Specialists (RADS) National Overview Report5 also stated the need for audience research and development within the performing arts sector in regional Australia. The RADS National Overview Report made a number of recommendations to improve regional arts organisations' engagement with their local communities. One of the key findings across the sector was that 'audience development objectives need[ed] to be considered in the planning of all programs and events'.6 Thus it was noted that many of the organisations operated from a product-centred viewpoint,7 focusing attention chiefly on the artworks rather than considering their audiences. This approach was reflected in the outcome of the Australia Council's New Audiences initiative in 2002." This national audience development funding scheme sought to support arts organisations in their endeavours to build new audiences. None of the successful proposals incorporated audience research and reception studies into their design to better understand audiences - or potential audiences or to ascertain their attitudes or reactions to performance. Instead their strategies remained product-centred and publicity-focused. The Talking Theatre project's standpoint was that, in order to build new audiences, performing arts organisations needed to understand their target markets, and to discover how these markets experience the performing arts, before they could make appropriate decisions about disseminating advertising and choosing programming. The RADS National Overview Report stressed the point that '[regional] arts organisations that have developed works responsive to audience feedback and those with particular thematic relevance to the community are often successful'. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.