Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Washington Post: “More Shows, Fewer Showgoers”

By • Apr 24th, 2008 • Category: News, Published Elsewhere

The Washington Post reported on the Helen Hayes Awards report on the DC area’s professional companies in 2007:

…67 professional companies presenting 8,050 performances of 454 shows. … Even so, derrieres in seats numbered about 36,000 fewer in 2007, the Hayes staff reported, with 1,908,557 people attending shows.

Full story at More Shows, Fewer Showgoers

I wonder if WATCH or NVTA has similar numbers available for community theater in the region?

This article can be linked to as:

started ShowBizRadio in August 2005 because they love live theater. They each have both performed in and worked behind the scenes in DC area productions, as well as earned a Career Studies Certificate in Theater from Northern Virginia Community College. Mike & Laura are each members of the American Theatre Critics Association, and Mike is a member of the Online News Association.

7 Responses »

  1. WATCH is good at number crunching, given enough time. Perhaps that data may become available in the future.

    I can tell you from a personal perspective that audience numbers are noticeably down for Rockvile Little Theatre. The average age of the typical audience member is steadily increasing despite efforts to attract a younger audience. “Attrition”, to put it delicately, without replacement accounts for a large percentage of the decrease in audience size.

  2. Bailey Center, current chair of WATCH, gave me these stats:

    In a short eight years WATCH has grown to encompass 29 theater companies presenting 638 productions. That’s an average of 12 productions per week and none of us want to figure out how many performances that represents! But to cover them it takes more than 750 judges who cast over 6,300 ballots.

  3. Well, based on the post article, that’s only a 2% decline in attendance. Not a good thing, but not a number to be concerned about. Community theater is another matter. There are simply too many theater groups collectively putting on more shows than the audience base will support. Shows are also suffering from not enough actors to fill the roles. This means many shows, too many, go begging for supporting roles. A lot of shows end up settling for, as Michael Toscano of the Washington Post put it, “people with more enthusiasm than talent”. And don’t get me started about the lack of good tech people which is another problem.

  4. Excuse me for butting into somebody else’s medium, but it was brought to my attention that I was quoted here. I would like to make certain no one thinks I believe actors in community theatre are “people with more enthusiasm than talent.”

    That is certainly not my sentiment. The main reason I trudge out to community theatres across the area is because I believe much of the work is excellent and deserves recognition. I am constantly impressed at how much of the acting on community stages equals that of the so-called “professionals.” 

    I have described actors in a specific circumstance as being more enthusiastic than talented (and enthusiasm is a good thing, is it not?).  But I have never made that comment as a general reference. 

    I have written about 1,200 reviews, probably divided equally between professional and community theatre productions. I am sure there is much we have all disagreed on. But I think we can agree that there is substantial dedication, hard work, and talent displayed on our local stages. I admire what these people do.

    Thanks, Laura and Mike, for letting me address this.

  5. Hi Michael, According to a Google search, you used that phrase in February 2005, about the problems in casting large shows like The Man Who Came To Dinner. See the review at Westlake Is Delicious, But ‘Dinner’ Is Not.

    Michael, you are welcome here anytime.

  6. To read many interesting comments about the slight decline in audience members for DC’s professional theatres, go to (I think the web address is)

    The general consensus is ticket price is a big factor (Arena for instance peaks at ~$70 for a musical), as is accessibility of the facilities (proximity to Metro, closeness to certain suburbs, as well as nearby parking availability) and saturation due to the large number of theatres. There are discounts, but they are more known to local theatre lovers than the general public. A few theatres advertise their own discounts, but buried in a back web page, because theatres would rather their audiences pay full price, which is understandable.

    What should have been included more was the price of gas – now above $3.60 a gallon. I dunno about you all, but that is a big factor for me, and I wish I drove a hybrid nowadays! I’m a WATCH judge & about 4 shows out of 10 I’m assigned to are a 30-40 mile drive from home – one-way. Most of the shows I see a year are WATCH shows, and luckily my ticket + companion one are free. I’ve seen some interesting productions as a judge – not all stellar but each one has at least a few really good qualities or elements, or a unique script or story. And I can confirm that each county around here has a couple community theatres that are just as good as some of the small pro groups downtown.

    As for seeing pro productions, after paying for things like full-day daycare for twins and a tank of gas ($55), I cannot afford full-price tix for theatres. I even skip seeing movies for $10 at the cinema anymore – they’re on DVD now only 3-4 months later & I see them for a lot cheaper on PPV or even from the library (free for a week). I use ticketplace & goldstar as much as I can, I belong to 1-2 local theatre listservs that advertise discounts, plus I look for a theatre’s own discounts (PWYC, preview week tix, etc), but there are SO many theatres now in & around DC that I have to be extremely selective. I look at a plot synopsis of a certain show, see if any discounts are available, see how far it is from home & judge whether I really want to see it. For example, I would love to see more of Synetic, but Arlington’s 20 miles one-way from me, and with the bad traffic around here, I have to forget seeing their Thurs & Fri night shows. And I wish more theatres did Sunday evening performances at 7 instead of 2pm matinees – I’m too busy with the kids or errands to rush off to a matinee & break up my afternoon…

    Just my 2 cents… FWIW

  7. Thank you for finding the original quote of Michael Toscano. The turn of his phrase stayed with me long after I could remember when he said it. I do believe, however, even taken in context, that it does help illustrate my main point. Speaking of the production he was reviewing, he wrote: “Community-based theater productions of this play tend to be problematic; the large cast requirement often means many parts are filled by people with more enthusiasm than talent”.

    I did not intend for anyone to infer that Mr. Toscano thought negatively about the work of community theatre in general. Far from it. Anyone familiar with his writing would know that he has been particularly supportive of the area’s community theatre and to those who give so much of their time to make it happen.