By Elizabeth Nelson
September 19, 2006
In response to Mr. Johnson's letter about the adjective "thousands" in relation to audience participation with First City Players, I'm happy to clarify how I arrived at the numbers that I used. Here's an example. The production of "Peter Pan" alone served an audience of over 2,500 attendees. Allowing for some repeat customers, there were still more than 2,000 residents who came to see that one production. We don't always have the same people come to every production, that is why we plan a very diverse season of plays that include plays for the whole family, plays to bring your out-of-town guests, plays that are geared specifically for adults. First City Players sells over 7,000 tickets each year, and the arts organizations involved in the White Cliff project sell between 14,000-16,000 tickets each year. It's true that a large portion of those tickets are sold to a loyal audience base (much the same way the same families attend lots of sporting events -- a wonderful, worthwhile pursuit!) However, because of the scope of our productions we manage to reach a very large part of the Ketchikan population. This doesn't include any of the school-wide concerts and performances that serve hundreds of kids in our district.
Concerning participants, some of our productions serve cast, crew, and orchestra of well over 150 people. Our production of "Music Man" had a cast alone of over 100. Our upcoming production of "Oliver!" has a cast of 64. Our youngest cast member is six and our oldest, well I'm not sure they would appreciate my saying their age. The Youth Jazz Choir we sponsor each January involves almost 200 children onstage at one time.
Numbers can be misleading, and I encourage people to look at information with a critical eye. Sometimes big numbers can be insignificant, and sometimes reaching a single individual can be worth a lot. Maybe it's your very own grandchild who develops reading skills and self-confidence through their involvement on stage. Maybe it's your elderly mother who is able to enjoy a healthy noon meal with friends and get a safe ride to her doctor through services provided at the Senior Center, so that she can continue to live an active, independent life in Ketchikan. Maybe it's the radiologist that was just successfully recruited to the KGH (after more than two years of temporary staffing in that position), who decided to come here - in part - because of the great arts community. Maybe it's the couple (okay, to be accurate, that's two people ) who came sailing through town on a vacation, happened upon Fish Pirate's Daughter, auditioned, stayed, moved here, bought a house here, pay property and sales taxes here, provide First Aid training and chemotherapy nursing at the hospital, and are involved in all kinds of community service around town. Add up all these individual stories, and it has a lot of value for a community.
We are very proud of First
City Players' ability to involve a large part of the community
in our projects, and we have broad community support for what
we do - in terms of audience numbers, participants, and general
goodwill. I don't believe that theater is for everyone, just
as I don't believe everyone is a baseball player, a painter,
a wrestler or any other number of things. What I do believe is
that everyone should have the opportunity to try many different
things in their life. I believe that as a community, we have
an obligation to help provide these opportunities.
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