Michael Billington says attention must be paid to Nicholas Hytner's achievement at the Royal National Theatre, which, in short, has been to look beyond (while including) the traditional old-white-folk theatre audience:
What's the secret of Hytner's success? Cheap tickets, obviously: the £10-ticket scheme in the Olivier is the most radical, yet basically simple, audience-building idea in my lifetime. But Hytner has also realised a fundamental truth: that there is no longer a single, monolithic audience for theatre but a series of separate constituencies, hence his scheduling of canonical classics by Shakespeare, Shaw and Coward for the "brochure" audience. He has also realised that there is a younger group hungering for a more innovative kind of physical theatre: exactly the people who flocked to Emma Rice's A Matter of Life and Death and Katie Mitchell's version of The Waves. Productions like Coram Boy and His Dark Materials have also redefined what used to be patronisingly known as "children's theatre."Of NYC theatres, the Public has the potential for such a balance. And even now the Roundabout--with their new blackbox/$20-a-seat space. But can such theatres use their "alternative"spaces for consistently inventive, daring, dare I say offensive work?
The best thing about the Roundabout experiment is that (like the National £10-ticket) it is totally outside of the subscription. Which means there's a better chance that the audience at any given performance will not consist mostly of culturally conservative subscribers who don't know what they're seeing. And that if a show is a hit, a better chance that tickets will still be available to younger, non theatre-savvy patrons-to-be.