Survey: Most Denver theatregoers aren’t coming back anytime soon

John Hauser in Miners Alley Playhouse’s ‘Once.’ Photo by John Moore.

Audiences, and artists, express deep concerns over going on with the show

By John Moore
Senior Arts Journalist

The spirit is ready and willing, but when it comes to returning to our local theatre stages during an ongoing pandemic, the flesh is weak.

Local theatre companies are all wondering when they will be allowed to re-open as the  coronavirus rages on. But a major new survey of local theatregoers emphatically shows the profound challenge all theatre companies will face when they do. Because not only are audiences not coming back right away – neither, say the artists, are they.

Golden’s Miners Alley Playhouse polled more than 700 theatregoers last week, and 74 percent told them they aren’t coming back to the theatre – at least not for the next few months. And a full 35 percent said they will return only when there is a vaccine – if ever.

But MAP Producing Artistic Director Len Matheo found hope in the 40 percent who said that “within a few months,” they probably would join the 25 percent who say they are willing to come back right now. That would indicate a potential audience base of about 65 percent of normal if live theatre programming were to return to the metro area in the fall.

“I think that the short-term future is going to be smaller audiences and hopefully some kind of streaming option for our more vulnerable patrons,” Matheo said.

Perhaps even more telling: In a separate survey of more than 100 Denver metro actors, only 34 percent said they would feel comfortable going to work on a play or musical right away, even after all governmental “shelter in place” orders are lifted.

Matheo modeled his survey on a national questionnaire recently issued by the Alamo Drafthouse, which is similarly seeking to learn not only when patrons might be willing to return, but what it will take to make them feel safe coming back into an enclosed and crowded auditorium for an extended period of time. The survey asked patrons what potential new safety procedures they would support, from employees undergoing daily COVID screening (87 percent want this), to requiring all patrons to wear masks (89 percent) to enforcing a tough “no coughing or sneezing” policy (a proposal favored by a whopping 58 percent of respondents). A full 92 percent of audiences said they would be willing to have their temperature taken with a touch-free thermometer upon arriving at the theatre.

But the inherent disconnect between safety and economics was laid bare in one question that revealed 88 percent of all audiences would prefer for theatres to maintain at least 6 feet of empty space between patrons – which would essentially make producing most any live theatre fiscally impractical. However, when MAP asked patrons if they would be willing to pay $20 more per ticket to make up for the theatre’s reduced capacity, a perhaps surprisingly high 50 percent said they would be willing to pay up, at least once.

Respondents were allowed to comment as part of the survey, and here are a few representative opinions:

  • “I’m over 70 and as much as I love live theatre, and Miners Alley Playhouse in particular, I’m simply not planning to go to any theatre in the foreseeable future, sadly.”
  • “I love the arts but with this pandemic, I must stick with the science. I will not be returning to the theatre until there is a vaccine.”
  • “I would want to know what procedures are in place for actors so that we as audience can feel that they are also safe.”

  • “We’re certainly anxious to get back, but we’re very cautious. Cost has little to do with it. We want the family together again.”
  • “These are tough times for everyone. Things are never going back to normal as we knew them yesterday.”

The results from the Golden survey cannot be assumed to translate to all Colorado theatregoers, but they strongly resemble other surveys that have revealed the profound wariness Americans are feeling about spending any prolonged time in enclosed spaces with other people. Shugoll Research recently conducted a study of theatregoers in New York City, and another of theatregoers nationwide, which both showed that well less than half (41 percent) of regular New York theatregoers, and only a little more than a third (36 percent) of theatregoers nationwide, say they plan to return to their previous theatregoing habits when theatres reopen, with the vast majority opting to wait between three and six months before attending plays again.

“The bottom line is we will be back making great theatre in some form or another,” Matheo said. “And our patrons will be able to engage with us safely, in whatever way they feel most comfortable.”

AUDIENCE SURVEY HIGHLIGHTS

Right away 26 percent
Not right away, but probably within a few months 39
Not until there is a vaccine in place 17
I’m not sure when I’d return 18

Go to the next page to see more survey results:

The Denver Sonnets Project, No. 73: Jim Hunt

By John Moore

CultureWest.Org is endeavoring to make short films out of all 154 of Shakespeare’s sonnets, each featuring actors with Colorado connections. The artistic intent is primarily to further CultureWest’s mission to spotlight the local theatre community and their current or upcoming productions. It’s also an attempt to promote Shakespeare education in a fun way. This is an entirely volunteer project with a proud budget of … zero dollars.

IMG_3117We are rolling one Sonnet video a week for … zoinks! … 154 weeks. Here’s a link to the YouTube playlist that hosts the entire series.

Four our 13th sonnet, No. 73 veteran actor Jim Hunt stands in for Shakespeare addressing a young man, but his message is oft-debated. He’s either preparing his protege for the elder speaker’s impending death, or the end of the young man’s youth. In either case, the lesson is the same: Love well that which you will soon lose.” Hunt is one of the busiest and most honored actors in Denver, most recently having appeared in the new play “And the Sun Stood Still,” as Copernicus, for the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company.

Video by John Moore. Another new short sonnet film is posted here every Monday. Please support the Denver Actors Fund at www.DenverActorsFund.Org.

The Denver Sonnets Project is a volunteer collaboration, with limited eligibility requirements for participation. For information on how to register, email your interest to culturewestjohn@gmail.com.

Completed episodes to date (in numeric order):

Sonnet 1: Cast of “Cult Following”: “From fairest creatures we desire increase …”
Sonnet 2: Josh Robinson, “See thy blood warm …”
Sonnet 23: Gabra Zackman, “As an unperfect actor on a stage …”
Sonnet 36: Rachel Fowler, “I may not evermore acknowledge thee …”
Sonnet 44: John Carroll Lynch, “Thought kills me that I am not thought …”
Sonnet 47: Adrian Egolf, “Thyself away are present still with me …”
Sonnet 73: Jim Hunt: “Love that well which thou must leave ere long …”
Sonnet 74: Lowry Elementary School: “Thou hast but lost the dregs of life …”
Sonnet 90: Adam Stone: “If thou wilt leave me, do not leave me last …”
Sonnet 94: James O’Hagan-Murphy: Sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds …”
Sonnet 124: Cast of Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s ‘The Tempest’
Sonnet 131: Josh Nelson, “In nothing art thou black save in thy deeds …”
Sonnet 136: Lyndsay and Jeremy Palmer, “Make but my name thy love …”

Look here for a new sonnet every Monday. For more information on The Denver Sonnets Project, and how to sign up, please email culturewestjohn@gmail.com.

Please consider supporting the Denver Actors Fund at www.DenverActorsFund.Org

Denver Sonnets Project, No. 44: John Carroll Lynch

By John Moore

IMG_7500SMCultureWest.Org is endeavoring to make short films out of all 154 of Shakespeare’s sonnets, each featuring actors with Colorado connections. The artistic intent is primarily to further CultureWest’s mission to spotlight the local theatre community and their current or upcoming productions. It’s also an attempt to promote Shakespeare education in a fun way. This is an entirely volunteer project with a proud budget of … zero dollars.

We will roll one Sonnet video a week for … zoinks! … 154 weeks. Here’s a link to the YouTube playlist that hosts the entire series.

For our ninth sonnet, No. 44, film and TV veteran John Carroll Lynch (“Fargo,” “Zodiac,” Gran Torino”) took us to the Satire Lounge on East Colfax to play a man who has a communication breakdown while missing his wife. Lynch is a graduate of Regis Jesuit High School. Video by  John Moore. Learn more about Adam Stone here.

The Denver Sonnets Project is a volunteer collaboration, with limited eligibility requirements for participation. For information on how to register, email your interest to culturewestjohn@gmail.com.

Completed episodes to date (in numeric order):

Sonnet 1: Cast of “Cult Following”: “From fairest creatures we desire increase …”
Sonnet 2: Josh Robinson, “See thy blood warm …”
Sonnet 23: Gabra Zackman, “As an unperfect actor on a stage …”
Sonnet 36: Rachel Fowler, “I may not evermore acknowledge thee …”
Sonnet 44: John Carroll Lynch, “Thought kills me that I am not thought …”
Sonnet 74: Lowry Elementary School: “Thou hast but lost the dregs of life …”
Sonnet 90: Adam Stone: “If thou wilt leave me, do not leave me last …”
Sonnet 94: James O’Hagan-Murphy: Sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds …”
Sonnet 136: Lyndsay and Jeremy Palmer, “Make but my name thy love …”

Look here for a new sonnet every Monday. For more information on The Denver Sonnets Project, and how to sign up, please email culturewestjohn@gmail.com.

Please consider supporting the Denver Actors Fund at www.DenverActorsFund.Org

 

 

Denver Sonnets Project, No. 90: Adam Stone

By John Moore

CultureWest.Org is endeavoring to make short films out of all 154 of Shakespeare’s sonnets, each featuring actors with Colorado connections. The artistic intent is primarily to further CultureWest’s mission to spotlight the local theatre community and their current or upcoming productions. It’s also an attempt to promote Shakespeare education in a fun way. This is an entirely volunteer project with a proud budget of … zero dollars.

We intend to roll out one Sonnet video a week for … zoinks! … 154 weeks. Here’s a link to the YouTube playlist that hosts the entire series.

For our eighth sonnet, No. 90, multimedia performance artist and author Adam Stone tackles perhaps Shakespeare’s most defeatist of all his romantic sonnets. Stone presents a timid, hooded narrator who begs his lover, in effect, “If you will ever leave me, leave me now.” Stone has composed several musicals for Buntport Theater, and has since launched his own company, Screw Tooth, which presents crazy, cutting-edge original works, most recently the relationship examination, “Til Death.” He also performs under the moniker Gold Licker and just released an album called “Yurei Cafe,” described as “music for a Japanese Horror theme restaurant.” Video by Adam Stone for John Moore. Learn more about Adam Stone here.

The Denver Sonnets Project is a volunteer collaboration, with limited eligibility requirements for participation. For information on how to register, email your interest to culturewestjohn@gmail.com.

Completed episodes to date (in numeric order):

Sonnet 1: Cast of “Cult Following”: “From fairest creatures we desire increase …”
Sonnet 2: Josh Robinson, “See thy blood warm …”
Sonnet 23: Gabra Zackman, “As an unperfect actor on a stage …”
Sonnet 36: Rachel Fowler, “I may not evermore acknowledge thee …”
Sonnet 74: Lowry Elementary School: “Thou hast but lost the dregs of life …”
Sonnet 90: Adam Stone: “If thou wilt leave me, do not leave me last …”
Sonnet 94: James O’Hagan-Murphy: Sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds …”
Sonnet 136: Lyndsay and Jeremy Palmer, “Make but my name thy love …”

Look here for a new sonnet every Monday. For more information on The Denver Sonnets Project, please email culturewestjohn@gmail.com.

Please consider supporting the Denver Actors Fund at www.DenverActorsFund.Org

 

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Denver Sonnets Project, No. 1: Cult Following

By John Moore

CultureWest.Org is endeavoring to make short films out of all 154 of Shakespeare’s sonnets, each featuring actors with Colorado connections. The artistic intent is primarily to further CultureWest’s mission to spotlight the local theatre community and their current or upcoming productions. It’s also an attempt to promote Shakespeare education in a fun way. This is an entirely volunteer project with a proud budget of … zero dollars.

We intend to roll out one Sonnet video a week for … zoinks! … 154 weeks. Here’s a link to the YouTube playlist that hosts all the series.

For our sixth episode (Sonnet No. 1!), the young improv comics  from Off-Center @ The Jones’ “Cult Following” make comic hay of Shakespeare’s very first sonnet, which you’ll have to take our word for it, is about how we want the most beautiful among us to have children, thereby extending her gene pool for another generation.

“Cult Following” is a monthly comedy show that’s a completely unscripted, live B-movie. A team of six improvisers — Jessica Austgen (read our fun profile here), Asa Erlendson, Sarah Kirwin, Brian McManus, Nanna Sachiko Thompson and Chris Woolf — are assigned a movie genre, and they present a new, totally made-up movie in that genre on show night, using audience suggestions to keep it fresh and improvised. The season ends with an 8 p.m. performance on Thursday, May 8 in the Jones. There’s a bar and popcorn, free swag and lots of audience participation. Video by John Moore. Thank you Charlie I. Miller, Emily Tarquin, Lauren Driscoll, Jane McDonald and Stuart Barr. Please support the Denver Actors Fund at www.DenverActorsFund.Org.

The Denver Sonnets Project is a volunteer collaboration, with limited eligibility requirements for participation. For information on how to register, email your interest to culturewestjohn@gmail.com.

Completed episodes to date (in numeric order):

Sonnet 1: Cast of “Cult Following”: “From fairest creatures we desire increase …”
Sonnet 2: Josh Robinson, “See thy blood warm …”
Sonnet 23: Gabra Zackman, “As an unperfect actor on a stage …”
Sonnet 36: Rachel Fowler, “I may not evermore acknowledge thee …”
Sonnet 94: James O’Hagan-Murphy: Sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds …”
Sonnet 136: Lyndsay and Jeremy Palmer, “Make but my name thy love …”

Look here for a new sonnet every Monday. For more information on The Denver Sonnets Project, please email culturewestjohn@gmail.com.

Please consider supporting the Denver Actors Fund at www.DenverActorsFund.Org

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Denver Sonnets Project, No. 2: Josh Robinson

By John Moore

CultureWest.Org is endeavoring to make short films out of all 154 of Shakespeare’s sonnets, each featuring actors with Colorado connections. The artistic intent is primarily to further CultureWest’s mission to spotlight the local theatre community and their current or upcoming productions. It’s also an attempt to promote Shakespeare education in a fun way. This is an entirely volunteer project with a proud budget of … zero dollars.

We intend to roll out one Sonnet video a week for … zoinks! … 154 weeks. Here’s a link to the YouTube playlist that hosts all the series.

For our fifth sonnet (No. 2), actor Josh Robinson implores a woman a great beauty to consider having a child, thereby extending her gene pool for another generation. Robinson just completed a run of “End of the Rainbow,” about the final days of Judy Garland, for the Arvada Center. Video by John Moore. Thank you Arvada Center, Jamie Ann Romero, Aidan and Fiona Robinson, and Sydnie Leeson. Please support the Denver Actors Fund at www.DenverActorsFund.Org.

The Denver Sonnets Project is a volunteer collaboration, with limited eligibility requirements for participation. For information on how to register, email your interest to culturewestjohn@gmail.com.

Completed episodes to date (in numeric order):
Sonnet 2: Josh Robinson, “See thy blood warm …”
Sonnet 23: Gabra Zackman, “As an unperfect actor on a stage …”
Sonnet 36: Rachel Fowler, “I may not evermore acknowledge thee …”
Sonnet 94: James O’Hagan-Murphy: Sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds …”
Sonnet 136: Lyndsay and Jeremy Palmer, “Make but my name thy love …”

Look here for a new sonnet every Monday. For more information on The Denver Sonnets Project, please email culturewestjohn@gmail.com.

Please consider supporting the Denver Actors Fund at www.DenverActorsFund.Org

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