The Playgoer: Line Sitting

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Line Sitting

By Dr. Cashmere

If you missed this piece on the money to be made waiting in line for Hair tickets, it's worth a read.

While The Public gets credit for giving out some tickets online this year, its leaders make a couple of dubious statements in defense of the current system.

“If we see people over and over again on line and we don’t see them in the theater we get a little suspicious,” said Sonya LeBrun, the assistant manager. But how would they know, with some 1,800 seats in the theater? When handing tickets over to a familiar face, “we note the seat locations,” Ms. LeBrun said. If, more than a few times, they see someone other than the original ticket-holder in the seat, the staff tries to kick the line-sitter out of line the next time he or she shows up.

There's also this:
Free theater “means that your time and presence—waiting in line—matters more than your money,” Oskar Eustis, the Public’s artistic director, said to defend the theater’s position on line-sitters. “In our commodity-obsessed money culture, that’s a vital civic touchstone. Some things shouldn’t be measured in dollars.”
Okay. But Eustis is missing the point that the current ticketing systems allows for exactly the opposite to happen: Perhaps a hundred seats a performance are going to people who have paid someone else to wait in line.

(The article's line-sitting protagonist puts the number of "regular" line-sitters at 30. At two tickets per, that makes 60 seats. And there are bound to be plenty of part-timers sitters as well.)

Remember, that's in addition to the 500-600 seats per night that go to donors, and to the house.

That leaves perhaps 1,000 seats for the masses. And that's wonderful. But if the folks at The Public are as committed to making Shakespeare in the Park widely accessible as their words suggest, they need to continue to make modifications to the ticketing policy.

And that should include considering convenience for regular, working people--even if that diminishes the size of the Delacorte ticket line, and the publicity juggernaut that comes with it.


Anonymous said...

You are correct, Dr. Cashmere! I admire the Public greatly too, and also applaud the new online option (although I've had no luck with that as of yet.) However the loopholes in the free ticket system are frustrating. It's also distressing that they offer the general public the opportunity to become summer patrons by paying $165, guaranteeing seats for productions in the park. Of course the Public is a non-profit institution and needs contributed income, but are there other alternatives? What if they followed their lead for the LAB series and charged $10 a ticket? Maybe that's not the answer either, but this is an issue worth further investigation.

Aaron Riccio said...

The thing is, it's *REALLY* easy to prevent people from doing this. Rather than check photo ID at the box office, have the ushers check photo ID each time for at least one person in each pair of theatergoers trying to enter the theater. Granted, this would slow things down a little, but with four different gates and all those part-time staff members, it wouldn't be that hard or unreasonable to just double-check that the right people are actually getting in.

I'm not a fan of random lotteries, be they online or in person, given that I'm one of those people who grew up secure in the knowledge that if I wanted to see a show like "The Producers," all I had to do was invest my time. These days, if I want cheaper tickets or SRO, I'd better cross my fingers--my love of theater has nothing to do with it.

Playgoer said...

Right on, Doc.

Of course what the Public is really upset about is that the $150 bucks or so people are willing to pay is going to Craigslist scalpers...and not the Public Theatre! (They must be flummoxed they're not willing to buy the "Sponsorship" at basically the same cost.)

Note this is EXACTLY the thinking that led to B'way producers to adopt the $450 "Premium Seats"--i.e. "If scalpers can get that much, why can't we?" They wanted a piece of that action.

It's hard to imagine this wasn't part of the "Sponsorship" thinking in the first place.

What outrages me about the article is how the whole Sponsorship issue is totally ignored & buried amidst other "comps" the Public gives. And yet the main scalper profiled is clearly pegged as a former heroin addict and flat-out derelict.

And yet...what's the diff?