Shiller remembers thinking that students needed to see Girls vs. Boys.
This is what theater should be doing: stimulating conversations between high school students and their peers, he says. Its important for us to build new audiences and do engaging theater that brings a new generation to the art form.
Part of serving that younger audience, he adds, involves communicating their way: utilizing Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. Like most of South Floridas theater companies, the Arsht has its own Facebook page, an easy find for lovers of that particular corner of the social media world.
Amadeos The Naked Stage is also using theater students in his world premiere piece A Man Puts on a Play. The company has made Barrys Pelican Theatre its home for six years. For his new play-within-a-play, Amadeo (he and Andy Quiroga are the only professionals in the cast) wrote roles specifically for the seven aspiring theater artists in the play.
Being based at Barry has helped us and them in tremendous ways, he says. Being on a campus helps you skew younger. The kids know how to get the word out about our shows. And they were perfect for this. Theyre not jaded. They were willing to bend and play and have fun.
Della Ventura and his playwright-pal David Michael Sirois are helping to take Alliance Theatre Lab in a new direction by creating original work reflecting the lives of young characters and, by extension, aspects of younger theatergoers lives. Sirois Brothers Beckett, about post-collegiate brothers who cant quite seem to embrace adulthood, was a big hit for the company in 2011, and it will resurface as part of the Arshts Theater Up Close series in March. Della Venturas edgy comedy roomies featuring himself, Sirois, Anne Chamberlain, Gabe Hammad and Ashley Price is about five theater conservatory grads living in the same cramped apartment as they try to get their careers going.
I write things I would want to see. Most people my age want to feel something, be taken somewhere else, says Della Ventura, a New World School of the Arts grad.
Adds Sirois, Live theater is something you cant do in your room.
Todays edgier, raw, in-your-face plays speak to and resonate with younger audiences in ways that even the greatest classic plays may not. Sure, Romeo and Juliet lived a teen love story that ended badly. But for most kids, relating to the soured romances in Girls vs. Boys just comes more easily.
All over South Florida, theaters are trying myriad strategies to replenish the valued but aging audience. GableStages Joseph Adler, who notes that two actors in his recent production of Ruined saw their first professional theater at his company, will take his 90-minute main stage production of Hamlet to Miamis Joseph Caleb Auditorium and the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center in Cutler Bay, where thousands of students will see it.
Miamis Mad Cat Theatre Company keeps pushing the boundaries of form in its original work, mixing everything from music to technology to comic book influences into its theatrical stew.
Theaters such as Actors Playhouse and Area Stage in Coral Gables and the Maltz Jupiter Theatre have conservatory programs that bring kids and their families into their theaters. New Theatre, which admits the first 25 people under age 25 free to its opening weekend performances, is now based near Florida International University at Miamis Roxy Performing Arts Center, a thriving multi-theater space full of student performers who already love theater.
Most local theaters offer discounted student tickets at rates that arent much more than the cost of going to a movie. But the best deal around has to be the one from Culture Shock Miami (www.cultureshockmiami.com). Run by Miami-Dade Countys Department of Cultural Affairs, the website offers $5 tickets to museums and select performing arts events for students from 13 to 22. All the theater offerings are in Miami-Dade, but you dont have to live in the county to take advantage of the program.. This month, says administrator Christina Tassy-Beauvoir, Culture Shock sold 200 tickets to Macbeth at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, 200 to Godspell at Actors Playhouse and 110 to I Am My Own Wife at the Arsht Center.
And that less-than-a-movie price? It may be just the ticket to getting younger audiences out of their rooms and into a theater seat.