16 October 2007

I Am Cheap, Like Your Mom, But In A Different Way... Or Maybe Just More Ways...

One day a couple of weeks ago I took a little walk and bought three pairs of $20 tickets - to Cyrano (ass-back of the mezzanine, on Broadway, starring Kevin Kline and Jennifer Garner and Jennifer Garner's dimples), Queens Boulevard (off-Broadway at Signature, cheap tickets underwritten by Time Warner), and Speech and Debate (Roundabout Underground, which I guess is off off-Broadway).

I like cheap tickets. They are the only way I can afford to see theatre. And I appreciate when theatres recognize that not everyone has $40 or $60 or $500 to spend. They're recognizing more than my relative poverty - I, and people like me, am their future audience, dammit, and am the current audience that's going to support the daring new work that they want to be producing but feel like they can't because the people who can afford real tickets are older and less adventurous. (Yes, they want to be producing new work. They're just scared. For all that they're non-profits, they need to sell tickets. So they compromise. And it sucks.)

And, also, Marketing Directors, read this*: Whether I buy the cheap tickets or not, whether they're for students, under-30s, artists, at-the-box-office, same-day, or whatever, the fact that you make tickets available for people who cannot pay full price makes me feel better about your theatre. Any theatre with an under-3o discount immediately rises in my esteem - they're cooler, more interesting, and more interested in me. Sure, in reality they probably just got a nice grant or something, but they had to apply for that grant, and someone had the idea, and cared, and got it to happen.

Off the top of my head: The Vineyard has an under-30 subscription and one for theatre artists; Playwrights Horizons has an under-30 subscription, a student subscription, pay-what-you-can (or $5, might've changed) night, and occasional under-30 performances that are cheap and exciting; New York Theatre Workshop sells every Sunday evening performance for $20 - tickets must be bought in person, but can be bought in advance; SoHo Rep sells every Sunday ticket for 99 cents; MCC just started a "$20 under 30" initiative for Spain, which hopefully will stick; the Atlantic used to do back row $10 tickets (going on the 'for the price of a movie' angle), though I haven't heard of that lately; tickets to Roundabout's new writer haven Roundabout Underground are $20, and Roundabout's HipTix program makes cheap tickets available for folks under 3o; and as I said above, every ticket to Signature's season is $20, courtesy of Time Warner (last season was $15 - hopefully they can stay at $20 for a while).

Yes, I remember these things because it's my job and because I like to (need to) get things for cheap, but it also changes how I think about these institutions. (The Vineyard's Theatre Artist subscription especially warms my heart, as do ongoing commitments to affordable tickets and the broader audiences they create, like NYTW's Sundays.) These programs don't just make me able to afford theatre - they make me feel welcome. I want the theatres to know that, and I want you to know that these things exist. Not so that you'll appreciate them so much as take advantage.

This whole thing was just a preamble to linking to a nice post at Playgoer today, highlighting Nick Hytner's good work at bringing new audiences to the National through cheap tickets. It wasn't until I rattled off that list that I realized so many theatres in New York had some sort of thing going. (Notable absences, either for lack of cheap tix or my ignorance: MTC and Second Stage. The Public sells $20 rush tickets to every performance, and once in a while - or just for Durango? - does $15 Thursdays, but if there's a consistent commitment, other than just good programming that gets me to spend money, I don't know about it. They also raised my subscription price enough this year that I couldn't renew.)

These programs are not just discounts to sell more tickets - they are the first, and most important, step towards breaking the tyranny that older, moneyed, hidebound audiences have over theatres' programming, and the first step towards ensuring that when those audiences die off, there are excited, interested, committed audiences replacing them. Don't wait until we're 50 years old and rich (if ever) to draw us in.

*Last time I wrote "I hope every [position at a theatre] reads this," that person at my place of work called me and was like, "Is there something you want to say to me?" Luckily we're between Marketing Directors, so no one will think I'm calling them out. Though my dear ex-Marketing Director and I always had lots of great conversations ("Yes." "No." "Yes." "No.") about cheap tickets initiatives, so I'll just dedicate this to her.


Adam said...

The 'passionate oversimplification' tag makes me happy in a way few things can. Thank you.

Also, thank you for summing up the ongoing non-argument I've been having with my company. I've whined at John about the details on multiple occasions, so I won't repeat them here, but I don't think I've ever hit on the clarity that you have going here.

If I can find an at-all-tactful way to do it (trying to avoid the phone-calls described in your postscript) I'll be passing this around the office liberally.

Thanks again.

Moxie said...

I've gotten $25 "student" tickets to Second Stage a couple times, by just ordering them online and clicking the "student" option. I think I'm the only blogger who isn't losing sleep these days over ethics questions, so I wouldn't mind presenting my old student ID at the box office, but they've never asked me for it.