By Madison Behringer
Sydney is home to some of the best opera and live theatre venues in the world, with companies such as Opera Australia and Sydney Theatre Company offering audiences brilliant performances and experiences time and time again. In companies such as these their subscriber base often stretches far and wide, however outside of this group there are many people who find it difficult to access live performance platforms.
One of the groups that were identified as being less engaged in live theatre and opera were young people between 15 and 20 years of age. Despite interest in the live arts within this age group, young people find it difficult to access the platforms and as a result, aren’t attending as many shows.
In another vein, Opera Australia conducted a survey amongst first-time attendees or people who had never been to the opera before and found that 21% of people cited “no one to go with” as their reason for not attending.
Seeing a need for facilitated engagement to the live arts for these groups, Opera Australia and the City Of Sydney, alongside Shopfront Arts Co-op, have created programs to encourage and support theatre and opera-goers in order to get these groups back into engaging with the arts.
Developed in 2018 by the City Of Sydney and Shopfront Arts Co-op, Playwave is an initiative with the goal of connecting young people with the best of Sydney’s art and culture. Playwave’s Director of Young Audience Development Valentina Corona said, “There were three main areas that we identified out of our research that were the major barriers for entry to young people, and that’s what we call ‘payment, place and people like us.’
To combat these barriers, Playwave offers three distinct programs:
Firstly, their online membership platform, offering young people between the ages of 15 and 20 unprecedented discounts on ticket prices and access to a huge range of events and content.
Secondly, Playwave Creative. Young people can register online to get involved if they’re interested in engaging in the arts further than simply attending shows. They’re able to create digital content, review performances and often have the opportunity to interview artists and creatives.
Lastly, Playwave Experiences. This program’s main aim is to get young people engaged and give them a soft entry point into Sydney’s live arts culture.
Playwave Experiences is the youngest arm of the Playwave platform and Corona says it was created with a specific goal in mind.
“It was really born out of the intention to really overcome the ‘people like us’ barrier. It’s really about creating those VIP experiences for young people.”
This August, Playwave Experiences is teaming up with Sydney Theatre Company with two opportunities for young people to access exclusive behind the scenes content from STC’s productions of Lord Of The Flies and Cosi. The first will see Lighting Designer, Alexander Berlage, and Composer and Sound Designer, James Brown, in conversation with STC’s Resident Director, Jess Arthur. Playwave audiences will then have the opportunity to open up a conversation with the creatives and ask their own questions.
“Cultural experiences are invaluable to the development of creativity and to the critical thinking skills of any young person, so making the arts accessible to them will impact every facet of their lives,” says Corona.
Playwave Experiences also offer a range of curated events for young people such as foyer parties, scavenger hunts and meet and greets with artists. These events are all designed to engage and welcome younger audiences, creating a more accessible platform for them to enter into Sydney’s art culture.
Corona summed up the Playwave mission statement by saying, “Playwave was really born out of an idea of what if we bundled up the existing offering of the live performing arts sector in Sydney and delivered it in a way that is familiar to young people.”
Opera For One
After discovering that 21% of first-time or never been before opera audiences cited “no one to go with” as their reason for not attending shows, Opera Australia saw the need for a new inclusive program. Creating an opportunity for opera lovers to connect with one another, Opera For One encourages audience members to head along to shows on their own, offering them an exclusive opera experience.
John Quertermous, Head of Marketing & Tourism at Opera Australia says, “We’ve introduced this program for those who would otherwise feel too intimidated to attend a performance on their own. We want everyone to feel they are welcome to the opera, whether they have someone to come with or not.”
Opera For One ticket-holders are greeted with complimentary drinks and canapés one hour before the performance starts, with the opportunity to mingle with other audience members in a relaxed social setting. Before being seated together in premium spots, the group is treated to a pre-performance talk by a member of the Opera Australia creative team.
The Opera For One program aims to support and encourage anyone interested in attending the opera, whether they have someone to go with or not. The program seeks to engage a wider audience range while providing an enjoyable VIP experience for opera lovers attending on their own.
Playwave Experiences (Lord Of The Flies at STC): Aug 7, Roslyn Packer Theatre, 22 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay. $25+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.playwave.com.au
Opera For One: Various Dates, Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point, Sydney. $189+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.opera.org.au