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 equality, gender equality, women directors, women playwrights

Women’s work

This “Seal of Approval” is being raised for equality.


In industry and big business, women are obliged to break the glass ceiling to reach the top ranks. In theater, the League of Professional Theatre Women is looking at not-for-profit companies who are helping women burst through the glass curtain.

On February 23rd, LPTW awarded theaters in which 50% of playwrights or directors are women with a Seal of Approval for promoting gender parity in their productions. 4 of the 12 New York theater companies honored have gotten the Gold Seal for their efforts and hiring practices over the past 5 seasons.

These include Playwrights Horizons for its hiring of women playwrights, Ensemble Studio Theatre (playwrights and directors parity), and Soho Rep and LAByrinth Theatre Company (directors).

The remaining 8 awards, simple Seals, are for equality in hiring practices for the 2014-15 season. Those being so honored are  Lincoln Center Theater (playwright and director parity); MCC Theatre, Manhattan Theatre Club (playwrights); The Flea, The New Group, Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre; Roundabout Theatre Company, Signature Theatre Company (directors).

LPTW is a not-for-profit organization promoting visibility and increased opportunities for women in the field which celebrates and encourages the hiring of women in the theatre and the producing of work by women. LPTW’Seal of Approval is designed to be a recognizable symbol that its recipients may display in all their promotional materials and point to with pride for putting gender equality into practice.


Posted in comedy, drama, musical theater, theater

More Year end review: ‘Tis the season…For lists,

Looking back on the year about to pass is a time-honored activity. Critics make lists of the past year’s favorites and share them. Seems like a good time for T and B On the Aisle to do that, too. Part 2:

Fool for Love at MTC kept our attention, especially with Arianda and Rockwell in the lead. Props, also, to their co-stars, Gordon Joseph Weiss and Tom Pelphrey for their support in this Sam Shepard enterprise!  Was I alone in feelng giddy from all the subtle flirtation in Old Times?

Roundabout’s Thérèse Raquin, playing at Studio 54 through January 3rd, while not destined for greatness, is a solid and haunting production.

Clever Little Lies  at the Westside Theatre through January 3rd, is a very dark comedy, with some of the finest performances in town. Greg Mullavey is simply fantastic. Marlo Thomas has impeccable timing.

To complete the list of musicals we started in the Year end review:

The Cast of On Your Feet! (c) Matthew Murphy
The Cast of On Your Feet! (c) Matthew Murphy

Dames at Sea, constructed to make us feel like we were at one of those “let’s put on a show” films, succeeds at this conceit. This bit of fluff is definitely cute and the tap dancing is invigorating. Dames at Sea is at the Helen Hayes Theatre through January 3rd.

On Your Feet! will have you standing to dance along to Gloria and Emilio Estefan’s inspiring story.

Posted in drama

Down and out on “Airline Highway”

Airline Highway Samuel J. Friedman Theatre Cast List: Carolyn Braver K. Todd Freeman Scott Jaeck Ken Marks Caroline Neff Tim Edward Rhoze Judith Roberts Joe Tippett Julie White Todd d'Amour Shannon Eagen Venida Evans Joe Forbrich Leslie Hendrix Sekou Laidlow Toni Martin Production Credits: Joe Mantello (Direction) Scott Pask (Scenic Design) David Zinn (Costume Design) Japhy Weideman (Lighting Design) Fitz Patton (Original Music and Sound Design) Other Credits: Written by: Lisa D'Amour

Sometimes it’s those who have the least to celebrate who are most inclined to show gratitude and party.

The denizens of the Hummingbird Motel on Airline Highway, the title of Lisa D’Amour’s vibrant new play at MTC’s Friedman Theatre through June 7th, are such a community.

The parking lot on Airline Highway is about to be the scene for Miss Ruby’s (Judith Roberts) funeral. Miss Ruby is still alive, however, but she is revered and her request to be eulogized while she can still hear the kind words of the mourners seems perfectly reasonable.

The inhabitants of the Hummingbird are Airline HighwaySamuel J. Friedman Theatremarginal to New Orleans. They don’t live in the Quarter. They joke about never having been to the Jazz Festival. They eke out what little living they can by doing odd jobs, like Terry (Tim Edward Rhoze), or dancing in strip clubs, like Krista (the heartbreaking Caroline Neff), or hooking, like Tanya (Julie White.) Wayne (Scott Jacek) makes his way managing the Motel.

Airline Highway Samuel J. Friedman TheatreThe set (by Scott Pask), the ragtag two story front porch of the Motel and the lot on the roadfront, fills the stage. A parked car doubles as a buffet table on which Tanya, with the help of Sissy Na Na (the mesmerizing K. Todd Freeman), organizes the festivities.

The only one of the Humm ingbird occupants seeking to escape is Baitboy (Joe Tippett.) Technically, he already has. He moved to Atlanta with a woman he picked up when he worked one of the clubs; she has a lot of money, a business, and a large house. Baitboy, a nom-de-guerre from his old life, is known in Atlanta  as Greg; Greg brings his girlfriend’s daughter, Zoe (Carolyn Braver) to New Orleans where she wants to “research” the Hummingbird folk. Greg abandoned Krista when he left. She, despite encouragement that she reinvent herself from Sissy Na Na, can’t keep the lies she tells about how well she’s doing straight.

Airline Highway Samuel J. Friedman TheatreAirline Highway, like the Hummingbird family, has a big sloppy heart. Structurally, it suffers from having too many wonderful narrators. Structurally, it is also saved by its characters’ stories.  Airline Highway repects them.  by not treating them as colorful sub-cultural symbols..

The demi-monde Airline Highway depicts is operatic and grand. There is a free-wheeling quality to the play, and Joe Mantello’s direction of the superb Steppenwolf cast is excellent. Freeman and White both have well-earned nominated as Best Featured for their performances. David Zinn has the Best Costume Design nomination, and Japhy Weideman is nominated for Best Lighting Design,

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