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In a tough market, both theaters and audiences urged to take risks

Actors Jennifer Rohn and Nathan Maun in rehearsal for SpeakEasy Stage Company's production of Adam Rapp's "The Sound Inside" at the Calderwood Pavilion in Boston in September 2021.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

Audiences don’t have an obligation to rescue local theater companies, though it would be understandable if readers of Don Aucoin’s article conclude that’s what we want (“Empty seats threatening to bring down the house,” Page A1, Feb. 4).

The well-documented decline in season subscriptions increases uncertainty and risk for theaters. It means there’s more at stake when we decide which shows to produce, and it places more pressure on marketing to sell each show. But when we get it right, audiences still turn up.

Here’s what’s at stake for audiences: With so much riding on show selection and show marketing, it’s tempting for theater companies to produce “safe” work — comfortable shows that audiences know.


However, theater is at its best when it surprises us or explores perspectives and experiences different from our own. Great theater promotes empathy. It breaks down cultural and social barriers and builds community. In this moment of social and political division, we need theater to connect people and broaden perspectives.

Here’s my call to action for audiences: Be as selective as you like, but don’t play it safe. Try something new. Trust your curiosity. See a play or musical that makes you think, or cry, or that helps you understand a different point of view.

If audiences take risks, theaters will too. We’ll thrive together.

David Beardsley

Executive director

SpeakEasy Stage Company