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.
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.