One of my missions this year is to self-produce a couple of shows. I’ve got one in the works that I’m not too worried about. But, in order to figure out if I needed help or what sort of companies were out there in Seattle that I might want to throw a script at, I scrolled through SeattlePerforms.com’s listings of theatre companies. I became fascinated — in sort of a horrific way — with how many theatre companies either didn’t have websites, had website links listed but the site was dead, or had gone on hiatus indefinitely. So I decided to look at some data.
Note that these numbers represent Seattle area theatre companies, operas, and some theatre/film cross-over organizations, and only represents those companies listed on SeattlePerforms.com (this means they have a Theatre Puget Sound membership. I can think of at least three companies off the top of my head that don’t have listings). This data does not include companies for areas like Lynnwood, Everett, Edmonds, Kirkland, Bellevue, Redmond, Renton, Issaquah, Puyallup, Tulalip, Tacoma, etc etc etc. It is for the King County area only.
A quick demographics note for Seattle: the metro area, according to Wikipedia, is home to 630,320 people (4 million in the wider area, which includes Pierce and Snohomish counties, but we’re not counting them for now). “Seattle has “around 100″ theatrical production companies and over two dozen live theatre venues, many of them associated with fringe theatre; Seattle is probably second only to New York for number of equity theaters (28 Seattle theater companies have some sort of Actors’ Equity contract).”
That number, according to me basically counting on my hands off the SeattlePerforms.com website, is 185 theatre companies. That’s a theatre company for approximately every 3,400 people.
Now the internet stuff:
Theatres with website listed on SeattlePerforms.com: 157 (85%)
Theatres with no website listed: 28 (15%)
Theatre website is active (ie, it still exists): 105 (57%)
Theatre website is inactive (dead, nonexistent): 45 (24%)
Theatre website redirects somewhere else: 14 (7%)
Theatre website has not been updated since 2009: 10 (5%)
Theatre has notice of hiatus on site: 8 (4%)
Assuming those 105 active websites mean companies that are producing or will produce in the future, that’s about a theatre company for about every 6,000 people.
This also says nothing about the size of the company, the fiscal health of the company (although we can assume most theatre companies are teetering on the brink of collapse, whether large or small), how often the company produces shows, and whether or not the company has a “home” or is itinerant. These are all things to consider when looking for a producer for a show, depending on what type of show you’re doing and what time of year it is (producing outside in February, for example, is a bad idea). I think we can, actually, safely assume that most of these theatre companies are the vanity projects of one or two people, and only produce on occasion, when said person feels like it or is able to produce a show. Most of them are probably itinerant. Most of them I’ve never heard of, or haven’t seen a show of, because they just don’t produce that often. Many, I was surprised to learn, are planning productions within the next couple of months — I haven’t heard anything about their upcoming shows through other channels, like newspapers, Twitter, and Facebook.
Last year, I told myself I was going to see as much theatre as I was physically capable of, and I did. This year, I’m going to narrow that down a bit and see as much new, locally-created theatre as I can. Although Seattle has a lot of theatre companies, it will be interesting to see who out of that 185 actually produces new work or local work frequently.