The Belly of the Beast-Night #129

I am very poor, which is fine because I’m young and before 25 it’s still romantic.

There are essential things (the red wine and instant pudding mix I just bought) and non-essential things, like buying new shoes, ever. My logic may not make sense to everyone, but in short, what I do spend money on I expect to be a thing of substance, even if that substance lasts only as long as it takes me to eat the pudding.

And I think most people can agree.

Granted, some things are more expensive than others for a good reason. A wool scarf humanely plucked by the tender hands of a 19th generation sheep herder takes more time and energy to make than fruit roll up. And that’s fine.

Unfortunately, most contemporary theatre is a horrible mash up of the two:

A fruit roll up, covered in sheep hair, selling for $90 bucks a pop.

Atrocious metaphor aside, a couple of different factors are at work here.

1.) A production is boring or old or bad in one sense or another and no one comes to see it. Eventually, when a theatre produces enough shows like this, hardly anyone comes to the theatre at all. The audience is made up of polite aunts and those close to death.

Because there are no patrons to support the theatre, ticket prices go up thus alienating any potential for inviting a new, younger audience.

This is a cycle that consumes more community theatres every year. Most of me tends to think they deserve it for charging people insane fees to watch shitty programming, like Arsenic and Old Lace. I fucking hate that show. But at the same time, this is the majority of theatre people have exposure to across the country, and if the theatres close there’s often nothing to replace them.

2.) By charging outrageous prices for tickets, playhouses create a class divide. This, I feel, is a particularly relevant issue in our City of Angels. The show Gatz, which I heard was great, is a good example. Not a lot of working class people are gonna shell out $170 and 8 hours on a Tuesday to watch a word for word interpretation of The Great Gatsby. The audience is mostly made up of rich people, assholes, and rich assholes. Because they paid so much for the ticket, and because there is an undeniable element of peer pressure among the elite group who would be seeing that show, they are less likely to admit when something is bad. Fueled by the ecstasy of mob politics, when one rises to applaud, all rise, enabling the continuation of productions that should have been killed off in their infancy.

But, really, I heard Gatz was great. I would have seen it if I could’ve afforded the ticket.

Tickets to the theatre used to cost about as much as a beer, and I think that’s excellent. Because, sometimes, when we’re feeling particularly like a cast member of Portlandia, you’re gonna shell out $11 for a fine craft beer. It could be good or bad, but chances are, it hasn’t broken the bank enough to stop you from getting a second beer, which could be better and will definitely cost less.

I think that people who go to the theatre should be able to afford a couple beers. And they should be able to drink/throw them during the performance but that’s an entirely different blog.

Suffice to say, this poor young theatre maker has found that more often than not, if you want something done cheaply, you have to do it yourself. Of course, this may be the whole reason for my poorness, but hell, at least there are enough people who can afford to see my show to keep me company at the bottom: where everyone has a beer, and no one’s ever heard of Arsenic and Old Lace.

Filed Under: Featuredjen davisPonderings

About the Author: Jen Davis is a stranger in a strange land. Following a life of wandering and re-location(where am i? WHO AM I?) she made a decisive (drunken) decision to forsake all things holy and move to Southern California. She recently received her BA in Theatre while narrowly avoiding a minor in philosophy. Jen has staged plays, mimes, sword fights, and cakewalks throughout the Pacific Northwest, most recently as Associate Artistic Director of Toy Boat Theatre Company. She seeks to revitalize and re-establish the theatre as a necessary part of American life through producing, writing, and generally crying out to anyone who will listen. Her marketable skills include learning to juggle, baking, and persistence.

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  1. Kevin Delin Kevin Delin says:

    The 99 seat waiver in LA practically guarantees that one can see first-rate theater for nearly movie ticket prices. As an example, today I saw the current @BostonCourt production for $5. Rogue Theater and Circle X routinely offer pay-what-you-can. And these are just examples off the top of my head… and do not even include the half-price tickets from LA Stage Alliance or Goldstar. True, you won’t be able to see every show this way and you may have to build your schedule around ticket availability, but more often than not, you can see a show while feeling guilty knowing the price you paid doesn’t begin to cover the cost of even the restroom cleaning supplies.

  2. Kevin Delin Kevin Delin says:

    And, of course, I meant Rogue Machine. (Blast these uneditable comments!)

  3. Jason Rohrer Jason Rohrer says:

    On the chance that Ms Davis isn’t writing for advice on how to see theater on the cheap (once again, Mr Delin and I seem to have read two different posts):

    I agree that theaters who cater to the aged and infirm do themselves no long-term favor. Let’s see who’s subscribing to A Noise Within in ten years after this crop of season-subscribers is dead. But the problem with getting rid of Kesselring et al is that it’s expensive and risky.

    A new playwright, though you may get him cheap, probably can’t write a joke or engage an audience or craft a character as well as a middle-aged playwright – and the middle-aged don’t come nearly as cheap. So when your new, groundbreaking show opens it may lose ALL its money instead of just the half it would lose if its writer or name had a built-in audience. When you find an impresario willing to bet money on your revolutionary theater-saving theater piece, you’ve got something. But it all comes down to money – and when even government contractors are spending $5 to see a show, the next production suffers.

    By the way, I think throwing beer cans at performers is a good idea. I’ve done it and it works. It chases out the bad ones; the good ones get it.

    • Colin Mitchell Colin Mitchell says:

      In other news, it has come to my attention that the lovely and talented Ms. Jen Davis is soon to be departing Los Angeles – like soon as in THIS week – and we will be losing her regular Belly of the Best posts as of this final entry.

      It was a short stint and I thank you Jen for honoring us with your thoughtful prose, and it’s a real shame because I believe that you were was just finding your momentum.

      Our loss, most definitely. Thanks again and cheers.

      Relentlessly yours,

    • Colin Mitchell Colin Mitchell says:

      Wait, wait, wait! I must amend my last comment. I have been informed by Jen that she is not leaving this week but at the end of February. Still sad, but at least we’ll get a few more BOB’s out of her before she goes. Yay! That’s Belly of the Beast (BOB) for those of us in the know…

  4. Steven Stanley says:

    Since Kevin Delin has a Ph.D, I believe that “Dr. Delin” should be used by those who are not on a first name basis with him.

    • Colin Mitchell Colin Mitchell says:

      Ooop. Steven you may have stepped in it with this one. We already had a bit of a tussle with the whole Dr. Delin situation. Incoming!

  5. Jason Rohrer Jason Rohrer says:

    Steven Stanley, late to every party. Does Mr Delin get the Scenie Award for Most Wronged Blog Commenter? Will he have to share the award with you? And with how many others?

  6. Colin Mitchell Colin Mitchell says:

    I want a piece of that one!