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

KeenGala
an email invite

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 VP.com.)  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.

Advertisements
Posted in 1987 Pulitzer Prize nominee, A Walk in the Woods, cold war, detente, disarmament, Kathleen Chalfant, Keen Company, Lee Blessing, Paul Niebanck, peace talks, Tony winning play, USSR vs USA

Peace in our time

Peace is elusive. Not the concept of peace. Everyone buys into that. The actual absence of war or threats of war is difficult to find. In part, it’s hard to come by because war and peace are so much about posturing: “How dare they!” “We have to defend our values.”

Paul Niebanck as John Honeywell and Kathleen Chalfant  as Irina Botvinnick in “A Walk in the Woods”
by Lee Blessing. At the Keen in a production directed by Jonathan Silverman. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

In Lee Blessing’s vision in “A Walk in the Woods,” at the Keen through October 18th, arms negotiations are a game leading to “Nyet” on one side, and “No” on the other.

Paul Niebanck as John Honeywell and Kathleen Chalfant  as Irina Botvinnick in “A Walk in the Woods”
by Lee Blessing. At the Keen in a production directed by Jonathan Silverman. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Irina Botvinnick (Kathleen Chalfant) understands this. John Honeyman (Paul Niebanck), her naive counterpart from the USA, expects to save the world from itself.

Detente is an old-fashioned word. It melted with the ice of the Cold War. Blessing’s play, ably directed by Keen’s Artistic Director, Jonathon Silverstein, is about people–specifically about two people whose business is politics and whose mission is useless. The two are negotiators for the great and well-armed superpowers of the Soviet Union and the United States of America.

Chalfant’s Irina is charming as she eggs Honeyman into trivial conversations as they walk and talk in a Geneva park.  The play, which was nominated for both a Tony and the Pulitzer Prize in 1987, echoes he futility and frustration of arms-race peace talks. It also drags to a point where it loses focus and our interest.

Is “A Walk in the Woods” dated in the post-Cold War era? Much of what it has to say about the unwillingness to scale down and give up weapons rings true. The opponents have changed shape and geography, perhaps. Despite its real-politik plot, however, the play lags. The leads are never anything but compelling to watch, but the outcome is evident and protracted.

The costumes by Amanda Jenks and Jennifer Paar are lively, and provide a nice rhythm to the seasons of the plot.
For more information on “A Walk in the Woods,” and the Keen Company, please visit http://www.keencompany.org/.