I went to see a play tonight.
It’s late so, other than saying that a friend played the most interesting character in the whole script and played it well, I’ll leave my thoughts on Eugene O’Neill for another post.
But I would like to share my experiences getting to the show.
Although not a college production, the play was held in a fine arts center on a small college campus.
I grew up near Dartmouth, attended two small colleges and visited many others, but I have never seen such a confusing campus in all my life.
There was a short drive that took you by the front of the buildings on one side of the campus, and a loop road that took you around the other side of the campus, but I couldn’t find a road that took you on to the campus.
There were just driveways and parking lots, all dead ends.
I drove around at least three times before parking on the street behind what I thought was possibly the fine arts center and walking up a road that had been blocked off for construction to get to the front of the building.
Luckily, after all that, it was the arts center.
Then I was greeted by two massive green doors, the type you’d find as a side entrance to a high school gymnasium.
They were about as unwelcoming as you can get.
In the performing arts, we talk about audiences a lot. How to get audiences to shows, how to get bigger audiences, how audiences are getting older and we need to attract younger people, how we need to encourage inexperienced theater goers to attend.
And yet we continue to make it difficult or intimidating for people to come with inaccessible spaces.
If I hadn’t wanted to see my friend perform, I probably would have given up and gone home. I was that frustrated by my multiple trips around the outskirts of the campus.
If I was older and unable to walk well, I never would have been able to navigate that dark, wet closed road in order to get to the building.
And if I had never been to a show before, I would have been daunted by those big, unfriendly doors.
The theater company has no excuse for not making the arts center more accessible.
If they couldn’t find volunteers to stand at the entrance or in the appropriate parking lot (assuming there was an appropriate parking lot), they could have posted signs and arrows.
They could have ushers outside the building, acting as doormen.
Or posted a simple welcome sign, letting people know they had the right place and it was ok to come in.
I understand that we are usually so comfortable in our venues that we forget that people less familiar might get lost, or have questions.
But we need to look at our buildings with fresh eyes and make it as easy as possible for our audiences to attend.
Why give people an excuse to stay away?