Barrington Stage Targets Young Adults 21-35

Five more specially priced evenings to follow

By: - Jun 19, 2008

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You may H8 texting shorthand, but it has proven a vital tool for reaching young people. So when Barrington Stage Company decided to do a series of "Pay What You Can Under 35" nights this summer,  the staff cellphones were busier than ever. This is an idea that was developed by BSC's Marketing Director Carolann Patterson and made a reality by the company's energetic contingent of highly motivated Under 35's.

Patterson felt that doing the promotion with "Spelling Bee" was a natural. "It is a hip new musical that really appeals to this generation," she said.   "The fact that the younger generation actually RSVP'd in advance only demonstrates their desire for a social cultural venue. They loved the party afterwards – which wasn't about going out and drinking but it was definitely about dancing and blowing off some steam after a long week!" She noted that: "It was a great looking crowd and they all made an effort to dress the part, treating it like a special social occasion.  It was great to see that."

The basic idea of course is to expand the younger audiences, especially those in the 21-35 demographic - it's the one just about everyone is after. Most of them are still single, adventurous, go out a lot, and like to party with their peers. They work long hours, and those at the younger end of the scale are still financially challenged. So with a minimum payment of $5 for a ticket, they get to see a show, which last Friday was "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee"  and then to stay and party with the cast afterwards.

More than 100 under 35 ticket buyers showed up. I noted that diversity was everywhere. When I was younger, dating was pretty simple. He was cute, she was cute, you liked the same music and he had an extra ticket to the Talking Heads concert. That pretty much was it.

Today the crowds are mixed in every which way, young folks are pretty color blind, and even the need for gay bars has declined as the rules have been relaxed about such things.  Oh men still pay the game, and women follow the rules, but this is the age of polyamorous relationships, of singles living alone while in long term relationships, and don't forget the three-day phone call rule, and the three-date sex rule. I learned about text messaging - there are rules for that too, especially if you are into courting lite.

Not to mention how laissez faire a whole generation has become towards individuality.

While the Spelling Bee cast on stage was a motley assortment of lovable misfits, the under 35 crowd of 150+ fit together like a perfectly planned puzzle, revealing new possibilities for audiences and arts in the Berkshires.

Much of this I gathered from this group's pre-show conversations as they surrounded me, an out-of-place reporter with notebook in hand.  I laughed often during the show, and they laughed too, although sometimes at different things. Turns out there was a whole level of enjoyment that I was not in on, and they were. It was the irony that I was missing, and they were not.

The party afterwards was held in the alleyway between the theatre and the senior housing next door. The young Barrington staffers recruited lots of help to make it a swell affair too.  The Pittsfield Garden Tour and Geri Jones of Churchill Gardens converted the empty space between buildings into a summer evening garden while  Larry Kratka spun the tunes. John Kelly and his  wife offered beverages from their local package store.

A quick survey of under 35's revealed that they came not only from the creative fields, but also from the business, law enforcement and health services fields, and there was a smattering of out-of-town Berkshire visitors as well.

Mark your Calendars

Time to fire up your computer or blackberry and pull up your planning calendar.  You don't want to miss the next edition of this most affordable night out.  You can call Barrington Stage Company at (413) 236-8888 for more information. Here are the dates for future Barrington Stage performances for the under 35 crowd:

Additional Pay What You Can Under 35 Performances

July 25 The Violet Hour (PWYC) with after party
August  15 Private Lives PWYC with after party
June 20 Harris Burdick (PWYC at Stage 2)
July 11 My Scary Girl (PWYC at Stage 2)
August 15 See Rock City (PWYC at Stage 2)

The future of theatre depends on constantly nurturing new audiences and this is the demographic that spends more time going out and doing things than any other. Of course, they are also very focused and observant as individuals, and while chatting with some of the participants I mentioned how refreshing it was to see a live show, especially compared to tv with all its commercials.

I was immediately corrected by one future wag who reminded me that Julianne Boyd's pre-curtain speech might be considered a commercial. "More of a public service announcement," I replied. But it was a "gotcha" moment., though I silently noted to myself that this is a group that pays attention.

Well done, Barrington Stage. Bravo. Encore!

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