The Opportunities and Frustrations of a Theater Loving Student
While reading through the Cal Performances’ new 2008-2009 season, I ran across this notice for buying tickets to Yo Yo Ma’s concert:
Available only to $1,200+ Donors and above; see oursection for full listing of donor benefits and to become a Producers Circle donor today.
Now Ma is an amazingly lyrical player, and he is playing the Bach suites – but this sort of blatant soliciting by opening up this concert only to $1200+ donors is sobering. I saw Ma play in Shanghai a few years ago, and I would actually rather fly to China and see him for the same amount of money than supporting this bold move. It’s not surprising that people call theater elitist and find it uninviting.
Note that even if you donate $1200, it’s an additional $150-250 to see the Yo Yo Ma concert.
Ticket pricing is an issue that’s near and dear to my heart, because it directly affects my ability to see shows. For a person who’s willing to devote time, gas, and effort to see as much theater as I can, ticket prices are the only obstacle to enjoying my favorite and notoriously expensive hobby.
I realize that it takes a lot of money to put on the quality theater that I enjoy. The San Francisco Ballet has reportedly poured in $3 million into the New Works Festival, with Silicon Valley royalty like Yahoo’s founder Jerry Yang sponsoring Elo’s piece, Double Evil. With this, I am eternally grateful to the many institutions in the Bay area that remember the peons the students and offer great discount ticketing options. My favorite is San Francisco Ballet, where you can buy tickets over the phone for same day discounts. It’s such a luxury, and one that I utilize often. (One small complaint: this luxury was yanked for certain days over the New Works Festival which prevented me from watching Program A twice – check out sfmike’s take on what he calls the “only serious misstep” over this decision.) San Francisco Symphony also offers Center Terrace seats (located behind the stage, great for a piano concerto but not so great for something like a violin solo where the soloist faces the front) and rush tickets for certain performances based on availability. Berkeley Repertory Theatre has the most aggressive program aimed at attracting younger audiences, with a great “Under 30″ program with half priced tickets and access to their great Under 30 parties. All these programs are great for reeling in new audiences otherwise intimidated of going to see theater, and hopefully keeping these audiences as salaries expand with age. These programs have allowed me to experience and to keep my theater hobby alive, and whereve I end up, I will be a season subscriber to as many of these venues (or similar ones) as possible.
Cal Performances doesn’t have a consistent general student rush policy except for Berkeley students, which I am not, and rare occasions when most of the theater is empty, which coincidentally don’t occur in the shows that I usually want to see.
It’s also impossible to completely boycott its ticket policies when Cal Performances is bringing Mark Morris’ new Romeo and Juliet and his L’Allegro this year, in addition to the Kirov Ballet, the Bolshoi Ballet, and Alvin Ailey. It just means I have to limit my support and keep away from the programs that I could live without seeing. It also means no running to the Berkeley campus for last minute viewings when an evening opens up.
(On a side tangent: more information on Morris’ new Romeo and Juliet production. Not only am I looking forward to Morris’ ingenuity in seeing what he’ll do to the sweeping Prokofiev score, but this show will be a premiere in itself using the original music that Prokofiev was forced to rewrite in order to accomodate the strict Stalinist regime. Check out the new website for Morris’ Romeo and Juliet, www.lovelives.net .)
I wrote briefly about this topic before, citing a NY Times article that when NYCB changed its cheapest tickets from $30 to $15, sales tripled. Sometimes I wonder why I couldn’t have cheaper hobbies than theater, like movies or hiking. But thanks to the great student programs out there, it’s really allowed me to see as much as I can without too being too much in debt. I can only hope that these student policies don’t change.
From the NY Times article, If You Discount It, Will They Come?
Updated: Are you a student at UCSF or the SF Conservatory? Check out the SF Performances Culture Card, where you can see over 20 shows for $25. It’s got to be one of the best deals that I’ve ever heard of.