Current study of local theatres asking audiences about their experiences

Long Beach theatres are reaching out to audience members to find out what they think about productions on local stages. Researcher Victoria Bryan, an adjunct faculty member in the Liberal Studies Department at California State University, Long Beach, is collaborating with the Long Beach theatre community to investigate why people choose to go to the theatre and whether their experiences match their expectations.
“We know that theatre audience numbers are shrinking and, naturally, theatres are concerned about that,”said Bryan. “Talking to people who do attend shows seems like a good place to start, to understand how we can build and sustain future audiences.”
Through the end of the year, audience members at each theatre in Long Beach will be asked to complete a questionnaire after they see a production. All of the information will be analyzed at the end of the study and reported back to theatres, audiences, and Long Beach arts leaders.
“This study is very much in line with Create Long Beach, our recently completed 10-year cultural master plan, particularly the plan’s goals that address fostering a collaborative and sustainable environment for cultural organizations of all sizes, and creating an effective communication network to engage the cultural sector and the larger community,” said Craig Watson, executive director of The Arts Council for Long Beach. “I look forward to hearing the audience’s perspective on our diverse theatre community, its strengths and its opportunities to be even more responsive to new and existing audiences.”
There are two ways to participate in the study. The survey is available online at surveymonkey.com/s/AudienceSurvey. Anyone who has seen a recent theatre production in Long Beach is encouraged to compete a survey about that production. Paper questionnaires will also be available in theatre lobbies. Participants can complete the questionnaire at the theatre or take it home and mail it to the researcher.
“Clearly, without audiences, we don’t have theatre,” said Lauren Morris, managing director of the Long Beach Playhouse, one of the theatres taking part in the study. “They are our partners in creating an exciting theatre community, and we really want to know what they think.”
Other participants include all theatre types and sizes, from the 1,074-seat Carpenter Performing Arts Center to Long Beach Shakespeare Company’s two spaces in Bixby Knolls; from Cal Rep on board the Queen Mary to The Garage and Found theatres in the downtown Arts District. Musical Theatre West and the Long Beach Playhouse will represent long-time Long Beach theatre institutions, while GO-FAME represents children’s theatre. School theatre programs will include Millikan High School and the Renaissance High School for the Performing Arts. Act Out Mystery Theatre and All American Melodrama and Music Hall are based in the Shoreline Village/Harbor area, and Alive Theatre, which tours to different venues throughout Long Beach, will round out the group of theatres already committed to the project.
The survey takes approximately 10 to 15 minutes to complete. “I know that’s a lot of time to ask, but audience members’ opinions are important to our theatres,” explained Bryan. “We’re looking for more than just ‘I liked it/I didn’t like it.’”As well as providing Long Beach theatres with feedback to benefit their marketing, outreach, and programming plans, Bryan will write her doctoral dissertation on the findings of the study. “Through this research, I hope to add to the ongoing discussion about the relationship between theatres and their audiences,” she said. “That connection is critical to the future health of our theatres, so we’re going to talk to the people who best understand the audience experience– the audience themselves.”

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