Freeway Music — Columbia, SC’s Premier Music School

The Importance of Theater Accessibility

Since humanity could think, we’ve been creating. Art is as old as society itself, from cave paintings with berries and clay to oral tales passed down through generations. Now, as the modern world advances, so does art. Charcoal evolves into digital tablets, movies skip out on practical effects in favor of CGI, and theater expands from two people talking on a stage to a spectacular display of ingenuity and love for the craft. 

The origins of theater as a space and community can be traced to ancient Greece, where the first plays were performed in front of an audience. There, playwrights birthed tragedy and comedy, three-act structures, and the power of community. It was known then as the common man’s artform because of its accessibility. Anyone, regardless of financial status, could perform in these communal events. 

Recently, however, theater’s transformed from an accessible form of art to something of a luxury good. Tickets on Broadway have skyrocketed, and productions are now expected to be Tony-levels of extravagance. If not, they’re underfunded, under-marketed, and die out of relevancy before opening weekend is over. Volunteering thespians with only a small auditorium and an even smaller budget pour all their energy into a short-lived run of a musical that their local theater’s barely will make a profit on. High school and middle school kids must have perfect pitch and stellar props, taking the fun out of creation and performance.

Everything that is made must have a monetary advantage or else it’s not worth doing. Art is no longer seen as something for everyone’s enjoyment and even a necessity for a society to thrive and connect to one another. Rather, theater in particular is now seen as child’s play and only worth watching if it’s groundbreaking and expensive. Actors can barely afford to live, much less shuck out hundreds of dollars to buy tickets to their own shows. Those who can drop that kind of money for a matinee is small and buy them for the spectacle of it, not the art. 

In the everchanging zeitgeist, many people believe these skyrocketing prices are justified. The work is disregarded because it’s not a necessity and seen as something luxurious instead of a way to connect with each other. Expectations for quality are also higher than ever.

But in a world that is more polarized than ever, only art can bridge the gap. Art allows people from different backgrounds to see stories from all around the world. Theater breeds community, creativity, and connection. It allows empathy to cultivate.

So, how does this change? Broadway’s prices won’t drop overnight, especially when those who can afford it will keep buying them, justifying those kinds of prices. But starting small—supporting community theaters, having bigger art budgets in schools—can have a great impact. Watch local shows, donate to nonprofit art companies, when possible, and even volunteer if you’re interested. Staying active in a community can allow art to thrive and show that theater is and always will be accessible.

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