Whether it's because they can’t afford it or that theatre going is seen as "uncool", there's a nagging stereotype that "teenagers don’t do theatre". Not so, says dedicated #stageyteen Beth Harris. Post-Wicked, a wide range of shows are building their own dedicated fanbases from a new generation...
In recent years the production of new musicals such as Heathers, Hamilton, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Dear Evan Hansen and Mean Girls have brought a new generation into the theatre. It brings a whole new meaning to the idea of ‘theatre kids’ as, suddenly, it’s not only those who perform that want to see the new blockbuster musical. These shows create their own dedicated fanbases and a community which, for the most part, is kind, caring and stands with each other.
The actors often communicate with fans via Twitter and most will stay behind to meet fans at the stage door. It’s certainly easy to see what makes these new musicals attractive to teens. The music is upbeat almost like pop songs and could easily be played in the charts - in fact, several recent cast recordings have done well in the charts. Of course, we all love the classic Andrew Lloyd Webber shows, but there’s a new generation of writers, an obvious example being Lin-Manuel Miranda, who are bringing something new to the stage, something that stands out and doesn’t conform to people's general ideas of theatre. This excites teenagers, they want to watch things which stand out and are slightly quirky.
There’s also more diverse representation appearing onstage. It’s not perfect, but more and more, whatever their backgrounds, teens can see themselves on that stage, which makes it easier to connect with the characters and the storyline. The experience is no longer reserved for those who can afford to go to the top drama schools. Kids can see people who look and sound like them,
It helps enormously that many theatres now offer student discounts, day seats or even lotteries at a considerably lower price than a usual ticket. Hamilton famously runs a £10 lottery, for instance, while Wicked offers £29.50 student tickets and day seats and Heathers, returning summer to The Other Palace, has £21 tickets for under-21s. This level of pricing means it is possible for teens to access the theatre as they don’t have hundreds of pounds lying around for a normal ticket.
As more teens participate in theatre, other theatregoers also become more accustomed to seeing teens alone in the theatre. Although there's still a lot more that can be done, things are definitely moving in the right direction.