On the money
We can probably file this under marketing rather than fund-raising, but the Goodman Theatre's latest wheeze - a money-back guarantee for a new play by Migdalia Cruz - is certainly eye-catching. I've written a piece for the Guardian's theatre blog here, wondering if punters would really have the gall to demand a refund after sitting through an evening at the theatre. Early comments suggest that many people are way less forgiving of an unsatisfactory night out than I might be.
Actually, mediocrity is less forgivable than ambition that doesn't quite come off. I fervently hope that 2009 doesn't hold any plays more lame than the duddest of this year's duds: Nicholas de Jongh's bafflingly overpraised drama Plague Over England and the quickly buried recession comedy Ordinary Dreams. Admittedly, I was on review duty those nights, so money-back wasn't an option (but, oh, how I resent those lost hours). Even so, my heart went out to actors working like demons to flog some life into lines that fell dead from the page. Would it take a heart of stone to demand a refund? Or am I just a big softy?
And, fundamentally, is this refund scheme really the best use of the Richard H Driehaus Foundation's dosh? Was the real point to get attention? If so, job done. But look at how cleverly Britain's National Theatre has used sponsorship - notably the Travelex scheme offering low ticket prices. This scheme has helped attract audiences to sometimes challenging work (this season including new plays and rare revivals). The result is a theatre that buzzes, an audience that is at home with multimedia experiments and audacious stagings, that hangs out in the bars and foyers. Surely growing an audience is more about strategy than stunts.
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