A Different Kind of Senior Project: Building Theater Audiences

Goal is to Draw a Younger Crowd to Performances at TUTS Underground Theater

While their classmates worked with traditional Houston businesses, including oilfield service firms and energy production companies, one group of University of Houston students chose something different as the final project for their degree in Supply Chain and Logistics Technology.  

The five-member team is hoping to help Houston’s Theatre Under The Stars draw a younger audience to TUTS Underground, a series of musical theater performances described as “edgy, captivating (and) rockin’.”

The team will get a sense of how well they have done later this month, when the theater begins its run of “Murder Ballad,” a musical murder mystery.

Theatre Under The Stars created TUTS Underground last fall, staging shows in a 500-seat theater at the Hobby Center, offering a bar in the theater, tickets starting at $24 and other inducements to attract a younger crowd.

While the core TUTS audience is 45 and older, assistant marketing director Christian Brown said the target audience for TUTS Underground is 18-36. The audience for the first two shows was considerably older, however.

Michael Nguyen, team leader for the College of Technology students working on the challenge, said they found several reasons for that, including competition for entertainment dollars.

“I think it’s mostly awareness,” he said. “When I think of downtown, I think of the big shows, The Nutcracker. I’d never heard of TUTS Underground.”

After basic market research, Nguyen and other team members, working under the direction of instructional assistant professor Carol Brace, began a survey of UH students this spring, hoping both to increase awareness and to better understand the obstacles to drawing students and other young adults to performances.

Team member Vincent Patillo said early surveys indicate relatively few students are familiar with TUTS Underground, although interest seemed higher among foreign students. The survey also asked where students get entertainment news, with options including Facebook, Instagram, television and family and friends.

They’ll measure attendance by UH students at “Murder Ballad” as a gauge of whether the survey had any impact. The run begins April 17.

TUTS will consider the survey results as it continues its own marketing efforts for TUTS Underground.