Tuesday, October 30, 2007

How Much?

A recent blog from Seth Godin got me to thinking. How much should you charge for theatre tickets?

I'm not one of those airy-fairy types who believe that "in a perfect world, we'd do it for free." On the contrary, I believe that in a perfect world people would want to exchange money for content; as opposed to the current scene, where some people believe that artists owe them their content. (More power to Radiohead and like-minded artists who chose to give their stuff away. Some of us have to scrape to make a living.)

But I digress.

I've come around to the idea of charging about what you'd pay at a "premium" movie house, such as the Arclight, or the Chinese. This means $15 - $20 a ticket. It seems reasonable to me, and looking around seems to be the standard pricing for an under-99 house.

As reasonable as $15 - $20 seems to be, there are still those who balk. I've had people tell me that they'd love to see a show I'm in, they just don't have the money. It embarrasses me, but I've used the same excuse, at least to myself.

And so here's Seth:
What they are really trying to say is, "it's not worth it." As in, it's not worth reprioritizing my life, not worth the risk, not worth what I'll have to give up to get this, not worth being in debt for.
You can't beat people away who are excited about something. Witness the iPhone, an overpriced gadget that most everyone knows will be improved upon in short order, making the first model obsolete. $15 for a play ticket? The average Starbucks customer spends more than that in a month for coffee. And I bet they don't even realize it.
 
So okay, let's say for the sake of argument that $15 is just too unreasonable. Why not lower the price?
A show I was in a couple of years back was so bad, we slashed ticket prices at the door to $5, and actively tried to get walk-ins. This was on Hollywood Boulevard on an evening with heavy foot traffic. We managed to snag four walk-ins ... who loudly demanded a refund at intermission.
 
People won't want to part with so much as pocket lint for garbage. And as the old saying goes, "fool me once ..." Nothing kills off repeat business faster than one lousy experience.

Again from Seth:
The best response is to make something worth paying for.
And there is the drum that Godin beats with great fervor throughout his work as a marketing guru. "Be remarkable."

Which brings us to a very important question: What are we doing in the theatre that can't be done better on screen, iPod to Imax?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Practicing What I Preach ...

Andrew Moore, plotting fool, at a Starbucks somewhere.

I'm working on a screenplay in my low-tech fashion. As you can see, I have two piles of note cards. The pile closest to me is the pile of blanks that I'm writing on. The other pile is where I discard them as I go. I keep a legal pad (sometimes a comp notebook) handy for any additional general notes or dialogue ideas that spring forth.

In fact, you can see I have some dialogue scraps written.

My process is a bit like putting together a patchwork quilt. It's all bits and pieces, scraps of ideas that relate to each other. Before long the bits and pieces come together in one glorious, keyboard pounding session, and voila! A first draft is born.

I know plenty of people (cough - mom - cough) who have incredible stories to tell. What's more, they have the passion inside them to tell the stories. When you hold a finished novel in your hands, or watch a brilliantly penned script unfold before your eyes on the screen or stage before you, the work can be a bit daunting. These things never (well, hardly ever) spring full born from an author's mind. It really is just putting one word after another. It adds up over time. If you never take that first step -- then the next, then the next -- you'll never get the job done.

Or, as they say, the Great Wall of China was built one brick at a time.

NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month, begins very shortly. I'm not doing it this year because I'm writing a play, directing another play, and trying to crank out some spec scripts. If you're feeling stagnant and need a creative flush-out, I highly recommend you take the challenge.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Bright Ideas

I've recently come across the blog of a theatre professor at UNC Asheville named Dr. Scott Walters. He's written extensively on theatre at http://www.theatreideas.blogspot.com/, and certainly seems like my kind of theorist.

His most recent post (as I write this) really sparked off a troubling round of self-reflection:

Really? There's no similarity between the gated community dweller's quest to surround himself with others who share his values and the artist's attempt to do the same? When in the case of the gated community, surrounding oneself with a homogenized environment is a retreat, when artists do the same it is a sign of fearless originality? Just how does that work out, given that the underlying principle is the same: surround yourself with like-minded people.
Who are we making theatre for, anyway? It reminds me of Peter Brook's "why theatre?" exercise mentioned with great emphasis in The Empty Space. Programming a season because such-and-such a play would be "cool" to do, or because such-and-such play would pander to a certain audience now strikes me as deadly. As a playwright, what does this mean?

Perhaps it means a reassessment of why I write for the theatre. Do I do it to satisfy my own need to feel self-important? Or am I striving to tell honest stories that satisfy a need (still trying to figure that need out!) that exists in the audience?

And what of that audience? The theatre company I am currently aligned with lives in Hollywood, California -- just down the street from the Hollywood sign, and around the corner from Hollywood and Vine. Our home is in the old parish hall of a church built by Cecil B. DeMille. Our audience -- and I'm just speaking of those within walking distance (although who walks in L.A.?) -- our audience is potentially young actors and filmmakers, writers, musicians, punks, Latinos, and who knows what else. What are we doing for them?