The Playgoer: Save 50 Bucks

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Save 50 Bucks clicking on this "audio slide show"* and getting two free minutes of the Gate Theatre's "Eh, Joe," currently at Lincoln Center Festival for $50-90.

Not doing justice to Beckett, obviously. And at two minutes, this is already about 7% of the total running time.

I kid, I kid. But still, here's what gets me riled again the more I think about this Lincoln Center Festival ripoff. (And for a festival known for yearly ripoffs this takes the cake.) The problem is they seem to be going out of their way to exploit this 30-minute star encounter with Liam Neeson--plus, the 60-minute one with Ralph Fiennes in "First Love"--for much intake as possible.

For instance, would you have guessed that when this same production (with Michael Gambon) played the West End (yes, the commercial West End) in 2006 the top price was only £20? Don't know what the exchange rate was two years ago, but today that would only be about $40--and the dollar was probably better then!

Yes, you probably would have guessed such, wouldn't you by now.

So now Lincoln Center packages it with two other short Beckett pieces as a pseudo-series ("Gate Beckett," since all three officially come from Dublin's Gate Theatre). But to what point? Certainly not to save the ticketbuyer any cost. Only to enhance their marketing.

They certainly didn't program them as a cohesive series. (The reviews are trickling out separately, you'll notice.) They chose only two days to present all three plays on and then have the gall to call it a "marathon", even though you're essentially buying all three tickets at full price and only seeing 3 hours of theatre. But obviously it didn't have to be this way.

So why don't you just come out and say what you mean, Festival Director Nigel Redden: Fuck you, we're Lincoln Center Festival.

Anyway, again this has nothing to do with dismissing Beckett's minimalism as somehow not worthy of "full" price.

BUT--have we come to that point in theatre where we really do need to reconsider what "an evening" of theatre means any more? Everything still seems packaged around the old 2-3hr play model. But clearly the 90-minute intermissionless form is here to stay, and is arguably even dominating amongst the younger writers.

No, you can't put a price on good theatre. (Though certainly many producers/presenters do!) But think of it this way: if movies suddenly shrunk to 45 minute running times, do you think studios and exhibitors could ever get away with still charging the current $11-12? Perhaps they'd return to the old-style movie programming--shorts, newsreels, A-picture, B-picture....Bring it on, I say! Sure beats the deafening uber-commercials we sit through now.

My point is: of course they couldn't get away with that. But somehow, I sense theatre managers still think they can. Both the Public and NYTW charged full price for Caryl Churchill's latest 45-50 minute pieces.

I welcome the more flexible forms/lengths of modern dramaturgy. But how about some flexible prices?

*So sorry about the original bad link. Now fixed. Hopefully some of you found the feature on your own.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The proof in pudding, which corroborates what you're saying, is that several years ago during the festival's Pinter program, several of the evenings were made up of two shorter plays.

For example, "The Room" was paired with "The Celebration." And they didn't charge double because the two-hour evening happened to include two plays.

Of course, since then, LCT has had huge financial success with the "Coast of Utopia" marathons.

So now their audience is conditioned not to be surprised by this kind of thing.