The Playgoer: All Audiences are Equal, but Some are More Equal than Others.

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Monday, August 02, 2010

All Audiences are Equal, but Some are More Equal than Others.

The Trib's Chris Jones gives us a good "textbook example of what can happen when an arts venue worries too much about food and drink for its big donors and forgets its real business of fulfilling the artistic souls of the regular folks."

Place: Ravinia Summer Festival, outside of Chicago
Event: Much ballyhooed all-star Sondheim gala.

Saturday night’s celebration of Sondheim’s 80th birthday, featuring the incomparable cast of Patti LuPone, Audra McDonald, Michael Cerveris and George Hearn, accompanied by no less than the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, was all over by 8:20 p.m., just when we should have all been enjoying a brief intermission as part of a perfect evening. When you take away the self-congratulatory speechifying and a slightly delayed curtain, that made for about 65 minutes of show. There were no encores — just some embarrassed bows from the performers and awkward glances from the members of the CSO who clearly understood they’d just upset the people at the back. The show ended a good 15 minutes sooner than the sign at the door. I don’t recall ever seeing a show like this without an encore — or two, or three. 


The issue here was that this was a benefit for the festival — and someone had decided that dinner should be served after the show for those 800 guests. If you were at the benefit, that might have been fine. Often such events feature brief entertainment. But Ravinia also sold most of the show-only seats to the general public — $125 pavilion tickets that were purchased by arts lovers out of their own pockets. The lawn was packed. I wandered around afterwards. Many of those people were justifiably furious. Ravinia owes them an apology and a refund — and it should do some internal soul-seaching as to where its priorities lie. Raise money by all means, but not at the expense of your regular supporters. The only clock that should matter is an artistic clock.
Doesn't paying $125 a ticket make you kind of a "donor" too?

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