Research & Development

Examining Barriers to Theatre
Please check back soon for information about the dissemination meetings held in the fall of 2017 across the country and responses from the field. 

What is Triple Play?

Triple Play is a nationwide project created by Theatre Development Fund and Theatre Bay Area that investigates the relationship of audiences to new plays. In an attempt to create a new understanding of why people do (and don't) see new plays, the project places audience members in direct conversation with playwrights and theatre staffers. The results of those conversations -- along with nationwide surveys and other research about new play attendance -- are currently guiding conversations in the field about how theatre professionals can more deeply engage with their audiences.
What has Triple Play accomplished so far? From September – December 2016, Triple Play partnered with the National New Play Network to reach even more audience members. NNPN, a national organization dedicated to the creation, production, and support of new plays, enlisted its member theatres to talk to their patrons in two ways. Eight theatres held in-person focus groups with audience members, asking about their relationship to new plays. Meanwhile, almost two dozen NNPN theatres sent electronic surveys to their patrons, asking many of the questions from our focus groups and one-on-one interviews.

All told, Triple Play Phase II expects to reach over 2,000 audience members across the country. We look forward to learning from what these patrons tell us and disseminating our findings throughout the field.

In November 2017, we released these findings:  Full Report | Executive Summary | Download Presentation

In October 2016,
Howlround hosted a series of online conversations about Triple Play’s work-in-progress and the ideas the project is exploring. Read the articles here.

From August – November 2016,
Triple Play had playwrights and theatre staffers across the country sit down for one-on-one conversations with audience members about why they do (and do not) choose to attend new plays. Modeled after those held in Phase I, these conversations were held in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC. They involved dozens of artists and almost 300 theatre patrons.

In late 2015, Triple Play received generous funding from both the National Endowment for the Arts and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. This funding ensured that Triple Play could enter Phase II, radically expanding the number of audience members who could be interviewed by playwrights and theatre staffers.

In January 2015, TDF and TBA partnered with Howlround to host a convening of playwrights and theatre staffers in Boston. Over a long weekend, participants explored the existing Triple Play research -- including the one-on-one conversations with audience members -- and discussed how it could be translated into concrete actions in their individual communities.

Click here to see a past events, browse a list of attendees, and read all the research documents that were provided in advance.

In late 2014, theatres around the country hosted one-on-on interviews between theatre staffers and local audience members AND between playwrights and local audience members. Click here to read a Howlround article by Mark Blankenship, TDF's online content editor, that summarizes the most exciting discoveries made in these conversations.

In early 2014, TDF and TBA hosted discussions in six cities about issues relating to audience engagement with new work.
Watch and listen to excerpts of the sessions on HowlRoundTV 

Read the announcement of the initial grant from Doris Duke Charitable Foundation's Fund for National Projects. This grant launched the Triple Play project .


Outrageous Fortune book cover featuring dice with theatre masks


When TDF was founded in 1968, the serious new play on Broadway was in jeopardy. John Booth, one of TDF's founders and its first president, said that a primary motivation for the fund was the realization that rising costs had caused producers to become risk-averse, stating in the announcement article, "We cannot permit the worthy play to become extinct." That conviction has been in the organization's DNA from that point on.

And finally, Todd London and Ben Pesner have written Outrageous Fortune, the Life and Times of the New American Play. It is our deep hope that the book will be both a culmination and a beginning.  It is the culmination of years of work and the beginning of a new conversation. 

Read about Outrageous Fortune     Buy Outrageous Fortune



From philosophical to practical, the role of the audience in the performing arts has been parsed, debated, and interrogated left, right, and center. This is the central concern editor Clayton Lord has unleashed in the sprawling database that is Theatre Bay Area’s recent publication Counting New Beans, an almost-five-hundred-page compilation of essays, research, and statistics that attempts to measure the intrinsic impact of live theater.


Read about Counting New Beans



Infinia report

In the fall of 2008, Theatre Development  Fund commissioned the Infinia Group to do a study examining barriers to theatre participation among New Yorkers. TDF was interested in understanding the forces at work that were keeping New Yorkers from attending the theatre.  We needed these insights to be able to create new programs which would be effective in building audiences.  The study involved quantitative surveys and qualitative (focus groups, in home meetings) research as well as a culture scan. At right, click to read an extract from the findings.