Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Wear Black for Broadway??

Posted by Bruce Miller
On Facebook—yes, as many of you know, I’ve ventured recklessly into that brave new world—a “global rally” is being promoted. On Jan 4, it is suggested, any and everyone who loves theatre should show their support by wearing “Black for Broadway.” A black show tee shirt is recommended, but any black garment will do.

My friend Lizzie Holland—no one loves Broadway more than my friend Lizzie—has signed up for the event. Facebook being the fervent social secretary that it is, I was informed immediately. That's Lizzie below and to the left with Raúl Esparza.

The well intentioned ideas behind this pro-Broadway, pro-theatre demonstration are these:

Sunday, Jan 4 will mark the closing of four Broadway musicals and one comedy: 13, Boeing Boeing, Grease, Hairspray and Young Frankenstein. Closing notices have also been posted later in January for Gypsy, Spamalot, Spring Awakening, Forbidden Broadway (Off Broadway), and “many others.”

The creator of the event, which was originally listed on Facebook as a “protest” and later changed to a “rally,” believes that the closings are premature and the result of our troubled economy. I doubt that this is actually the case, nonetheless ... “This event,” he or she writes, “is just a bunch of theatre fans showing our love and showing our support for something we care about during these difficult times. It’s a day of honor.”

I'm certainly in agreement with that sentiment, and so I'm getting my black Peter Pan tee washed and ready.

As of this writing, 7,548 theatre lovers on Facebook have signed up for the event, a figure that will no doubt increase exponentially over the next few days.

One cogent commenter, Chris Leavy of Orlando FL, added, “I'm actually going to a show on the 4th. Not on Broadway, but still—the best thing we can do to rally support is to keep seeing shows—any shows we can, as often as we can. Broadway is killing itself with $120 ticket prices. Hopefully some good will come of this recession and soon many more people will be able to afford to see live theatre.”

Apparently Phil and I are on the same wavelength with Chris. Hefty ticket prices are a problem not only in NYC, but also right here in River City. When the economy tightens, people look for bargains. At Barksdale and Theatre IV we’re trying to address these current realities by launching our Entertainment Stimulus Package, announced in a news story last week on Channel 12. Click here for more information and to view the YouTube coverage of the news broadcast: http://www.barksdalerichmond.org/stimulus.html#12

So what are we up to? The truth is this—thus far, ticket sales are doing really well. We’ve exceeded budgeted goals for Driving Miss Daisy and Sanders Family Christmas at Hanover Tavern, This Wonderful Life at Willow Lawn, and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever at the Empire.

But as we look to the future, we’ve come to believe that additional stimulus will be needed if we’re to match projections for Children of a Lesser God and Well at Willow Lawn, the World Premiere of Mona’s Arrangements and I Ought to Be in Pictures at the Tavern, and Sideways Stories from Wayside School and Annie at the Empire. With the exception of Annie, these shows have less name recognition that our recent hits. And if any of you are wondering if name recognition is a factor in ticket sales, I assure you in all caps, IT IS.

So we are continuing to sell our best seats at normal ticket prices (appromimately $38), reducing our second best seats to a very affordable $20 (you must purchase by Jan 31), continuing our $15 rush tickets for any and all theatre lovers who don’t mind waiting until 3-hours before curtain to purchase their seats, and providing Hanover County Students with $9 (same as a movie) tickets to all shows at Hanover Tavern.

And if these prices aren’t low enough, we welcome folks to write to me, tell me how much you can afford (on the honor system), and we’ll find a way to make tickets available to you for the price you name. This has always been our policy. We’ve never turned anyone away because of inability to pay.

It goes without saying that we need to continue to sell tickets at all price ranges in order to stay afloat. And we WILL stay afloat. I say this emphatically because literally every time we announce a new fundraising campaign or ticket sale initiative, friends and supporters suspect that we’re going under. Such is the legacy of the surprise closings of TheatreVirginia in 2001 and Broadway Under the Stars in 2006.

Friends. I promise. We are in no danger of closing. We’re merely trying to address strategically the economic challenges that ever business is facing.

So, you can wear your black show tee shirt on Jan 4, or you can pull out a $20 (or two tens and a five if you want to wait for Rush) and show your support by buying a ticket. This is a time for all of us who love theatre to stand shoulder to shoulder and rally behind the art form and the several nonprofit theatres that make our lives so much more fulfilling.

All of Richmond's nonprofit theatres need your support. I hope to see you soon at one of them!

--Bruce Miller


Thespis' Little Helper said...

I can't help but think that at least one closing is due to the current economic state. Perhaps it is only my naivety but I truly thought that SPRING AWAKENING would be the new RENT. It's not my kind of music, but is the most brilliant thing I've ever seen in a theatre...or anywhere.

It's an incredible experience and I will be sad to see it go. I will be zipping up to NYC to see GYPSY on Tuesday (after a rehearsal for TWOWW on Monday and back in town to do SANDERS on Wednesday, not to worry) which I think initially announced its closing for mid-March. Also sad to see that one go.

I'll be up to catch Hedda Gabler (adapted by my Facebook friend Christopher Shinn, a brilliant playwright on his own and I can hardly wait to see his adaptation of another brilliant playwright, Mr. Ibsen), SHREK (book and lyrics by another Facebook friend, David Lindsay-Abaire- and also a brilliant playwright), and hopefully the SPEED THE PLOW revival in February. I doubt my meager tickets will save a show, but daggone it, now is the time to make an effort (and to support those artists that I so greatly respect).

I honestly do wish I were on Bruce's walking tour. It's so interesting to get another's take on New York. Hopefully the highlights might be posted here after?

I'm certainly glad that Barksdale/Theatre IV is doing something (well...really just one of many things) to help make theatre more accessible. It's so vital.

I feel that I should note that that fantastic image of the 10,000 tickets for $20 was designed by Bdale/TIV's invaluable Director of Marketing, Sara Marsden. It looks great!

Thespis' Little Helper said...
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