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The Cost's the Thing


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Dear Sirs:

At first I was encouraged by Rob Kolson's goal of keeping ticket prices at a reasonable level as was indicated in the August 22 Culture Club. That is, until I discovered his definition of a reasonable level: $38.50. So Mr. Kolson's tickets will be $7.50 less than the $46.00 going price for Blue Man Group. Well, who could possibly turn down a bargain like that? I, for one.

Does anyone in the performing arts realize that theater is going the way of the CTA? Prices are constantly being raised, ridership is declining, more and more bus routes, el stops, and schedules are being eliminated, and worst of all, no one seems to be making the connection.

When will producers learn that by considering ticket prices such as $38.50 to be reasonable they are slowly alienating such audience members as the lower-middle-class, the blue-collar class, students, and the nonworking classes (not to mention more and more of the upper-middle-class) that are necessary to secure the survival of the theater? Yes, Virginia, there actually were times (ancient Greece and Rome, the Elizabethan age, and the Depression, to name but a few) when everyone attended the theater, not just an elite.

And when will the audience learn that price does not ensure quality, and that for $38.50 it is possible to see two or more shows of equal to superior quality than are often produced at such off-Loop venues as Goodman, Steppenwolf, and Briar Street (not to mention how many one could see for the cost of The Phantom of the Opera)?

I ask theatergoers, and more importantly nongoers who shouldn't be, to ponder this: Two of the most riveting evenings I've spent in the theater in the last two years have been at Mary-Arrchie Theatre's production of Tennessee Williams's Small Craft Warnings (price $10) and Roadworks's production of Mike Leigh's Ecstasy (price $12 with Hot Tix). Like Doug Bragan of Chicago (who keeps his ticket prices below $20) and the creators of the Hot Tix booth, these are the true saints of the theater, not the Rob Kolsons.

In fact, from the quotations in Lewis Lazare's column one almost begins to suspect that ticket pricing is not about making a satisfactory profit to keep theater alive, but is akin to men who buy sports cars not for their intrinsic value, but to prove they have a few extra inches between their legs.

Howard Casner

W. Melrose

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