Posted in Gala, Keen Company, Manhattan Theater Company, New York City Ballet, Paul Taylor American Modern Dance, Paul Taylor Dance Company, Playwrights Horizons, riff, Roundabout Theatre Company, The Mint Theatre

Raising funds

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Ticket prices are a frequent topic of discussion among theater-goers. Not much wonder when the cost of a seat to see Hello Dolly! or Hamilton for instance can go as high as $1600+. Of course, the savvy buyer will find tickets for these attractions at better prices as well. Even the less hyped Broadway show sells in the range of $99 (discount for the orchestra) and $239 (premium). I get it, it’s expensive to mount a Broadway attraction. When a show closes before its scheduled time, the producers don’t get back their investment.

The fact that the arts are a business in no way detracts from their art. In any given season, despite the iffy-ness of ROI, there are some 35+ (this 2016-17 season, it’s 39) productions put on the Broadway stage.

For the for-profit theater, revivals and transfers of off-Broadway hits seem like the better bet. Musicals always seem to drive the market, although I read a stat that those who go to musicals, generally go to 4 vs those who like a straight play see 5 in the same period.  The not-for-profit houses have different mandates: Playwrights Horizons produces new, often commissioned, work, for instance.

On the other hand, The Mint revives plays that have not seen the stage for a long while, with the motto, “Lost Plays Found Here.”

The struggle to get investors to back a project can be complicated. Predicting the public’s taste can be a risky business. For producers, raising money for each production involves looking beyond their own pocket. Theater Resources Unlimited (TRU), for instance, has an annual bootcamp for perspective investors.  This past February the workshop was called Raising Money for Theater: Who, How and When to Ask. TRU offers seminars on the business all year round.

Ticket prices at the profit-making theaters are certainly a ticket to recouping the cost of mounting a production. How do the not-for-profit productions–both on and off-Broadway– make ends meet? Concerns over government defunding of the arts makes this year a particularly critical one for the not-for profit theater and its counterparts in dance.

Asking for money becomes an art of its own. Inventive ways of getting donations crop up all the time. A gala is, often, called for, and will attract a reasonable amount of money. Galas usually include dinner and a chance to mingle with the talent after a performance. Some galas have themes, like for instance the Ballet Hispanico’s 2017 Carnival Gala Celebrating Trailbrazing Latina Leaders which honors Rita Moreno and Nina Vaca. The black-tie event is on May 15th at the Plaza Hotel.

The honored guest is a standard approach. Keen Company, a subscription house with a long history off-Broadway, for instance, holds its 2017 Benefit Gala on May 22nd with guests Molly Ringwald and Amy Spanger. The Pearl Theatre Company and Playwrights Horizons are under similar constraints to raise funds beyond the monies brought in by subscribers by throwing parties for patrons and offering opportunities to support them.
The latter brings Patti Lupone, Christine Ebersole and Kelli O’Hare to the Playwrights Horizon gala on May 8th. The Pearl offers classes through its Conservatory.

1TrusanvoecGoodePrintempsMost of the dance troupes hold Galas at season kickoff; for New York City Ballet this corresponds with the Fall and the Spring openings. Paul Taylor American Modern Dance generally has theirs on the second night of performance each spring at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center. (The theater is in itself an example of major fund-raising efforts, with Koch having paid for a renovation of the house which is home to @NYCballet and visiting dance cos.)

Youth America Grand Prix galas are a little like a serues of awards ceremonies. (We’ve talked of past YAGP galas on several occasions at  The American Ballet Theater, although they have a gala as well,  takes a slightly different approach to year round fundraising. It has patrons supporting dancers, an individual member of the troupe can be billed as being sponsored by a donor.

Love Love Love OFF BROADWAYDRAMA LAURA PELS THEATRE 111 W. 46TH S., NEW YORK, NY 10036 Sparked in the haze of the 60s, Love Love Love explores a relationship charred by today's brutal reality, paranoia and passion. Starring: Richard Armitage, Alex Hurt,Subscription tickets are supplemented by sales of regularly priced tickets but that is far from enough to cover the costs of running a theater. Roundabout Theatre Company and MTC hold benefit evenings, inviting their subscribers and other patrons to dine with theater luminaries. Second Stage are holding their “Spot On” gala with honorary chair Bette Midler on May 1st. They also hold an annual bowling with the artists event; you can’t spell fundraising without fun.

10. Pearl_Vanity Fair(c)Russ Rowland
(L-R) Debargo Sanyal, Joey Parsons, Kate Hamill, Ryan Quinn, Tom O’Keefe. Photo by Russ Rowland in The Pearl’s production of Vanity Fair.

Subscription houses depend on membership support (see the Pearl’s program of offers) to be able to offer their programming; subscribers are asked to give a little more. Seat-naming is another popular–and fairly democratic– way to bring cash into the house; the average donor can generally afford to put a plaque on a seat. On a grander scale, we have patrons who fund an auditorium or a theater (see David H. Koch above) or a patron’s lounge. Sometimes the sponsor is corporate like American Airlines for whom Roundabout’s 42nd Street house is named. With sponsorship come other perks, of course, like good seats, and access to staff.

Theater is a demanding artform. Give a little, get a lot.

Posted in Gala, Playwrights Horizons


Welcome spring with a theater near you. The one I have in mind right this moment is one of our favorites, Playwrights Horizons.

“Far From Heaven” at Playwrights Horizons, pictured Kelli O’Hara and Isaiah Johnson. Photo by Joan Marcus

On May 8th, PHnyc presents A Celebration of Song for its spring fundraiser, at 583 Park Avenue, honoring three of the company’s alumni writers and featuring leading ladies Christine Ebersole (two-time Tony Award winner,) two-time Tony Award winner Patti LuPone (also a two-time Tony Award winner) and Kelli O’Hara (Tony Award winner). The honorees are Tony Award nominee Scott Frankel (Grey Gardens and Far From Heaven at Playwrights), Tony Award nominee Michael Korie (Grey Gardens and Far From Heaven at Playwrights) and Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner Doug Wright (I Am My Own Wife and Grey Gardens at Playwrights).

The evening will also pay special recognition to book writer Richard Greenberg (Far From Heaven, The Maderati at Playwrights) and director Michael Greif (Grey Gardens, Far From Heaven, Spatter Pattern at Playwrights).

The Grey Gardens writing team is returning to Broadway this spring with their new musical, War Paint,  under Grief’s direction and featuring LuPone and Ebersole. War Paint is previewing March 7 at The Nederlander Theatre.

Cocktails and a Silent Auction begin at 6pm with dinner and the program starting at 7:30pm. To reserve tables starting at $10,000, or individual tickets from $1000, please go to

In related news, but of a more modest nature, Playwrights Horizons is holding their LIVEforFIVE lottery for the upcoming production of The Light Years, which begins previews on February 17th. The on-line lottery makes $5 tickets available for the first preview of a PHnyc production. Go to to participate.



Posted in dance, Gala

It’s a Pearl Jubilee for “Career Transitions for Dancers”

Dancing is not the only profession that taxes the body. Like other athletes, dancers experience the strenuous demands of a physical career. Waiting to retire at 65 is generally not a norm for them.

On the Town: Misty Copeland and Tony Yazbeck. Photo by Joan Marcus
On the Town:
Misty Copeland and Tony Yazbeck. Photo by Joan Marcus

Career Transitions for Dancers has been here since 1985 to help dancers seek new career paths upon retirement from performing. Their 30th anniversary Gala at New York City Center on Monday, September 28th starting at 7pm, is backed by the Jubilee Orchestra.

Among the many featured stars at the Gala performance are two ballet superstars, Robert Fairchild and Misty Copeland, both of whom have extended their reach to Broadway stages.

RobbyFairchiledFairchild, a principal with the New York City Ballet, is the star of the Gene Kelly-inspired An American in Paris. Copeland, American Ballet Theatre principal ballerina, joined the cast of On The Town just before it closed on Sep 6.

Shirley MacLaine will be the 2015 Rolex Dance Award Honoree, while past recipients, including Ann-Margaret, Ann Reinking, Bebe Neuwirth, and Tommy Tune (just the shortlist) will be honored as well.

For more information and tickets for the 30th Anniversary Pearl Jubilee Gala, please visit the Career Transitions for Dancers website.