While the performing arts have evolved significantly over the years, many people still have preconceptions about the accessibility of attending performances, especially when it comes to the issue of affordability. This month, I’ll address some common myths about the cost of attending performances and other activities at the Fredericton Playhouse.
We sometimes encounter criticism from people who feel the cost of tickets to our shows is prohibitive, and is preventing our organization from being truly accessible to the community. This line of thinking is antithetical to our organization’s mandate, as we believe the performing arts should be accessible to absolutely everyone.
In reality, Playhouse performances are offered at a wide range of prices, and there is actually a wide selection of programming to choose from, no matter your budget. Looking at all of the performances that came to the Playhouse stage over the course of the 2016-2017 season, 12 shows cost less than $20 to attend. The majority of performances – a total of 67 – fell in the $20 to $39 range. We hosted 17 shows with ticket prices between $40 to $59, two performances within the $60 to $79 range, and had only one show that cost more than $80.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we offered 10 completely free performances last season, as well as two “Pay What You Will” shows, which allow the patron to pay whatever price they wish for their experience. In addition, there were 56 offerings that included discounted pricing for students, youth and/or children.
We strive to make performances accessible to students and families with young children in particular, as we know they often have competing priorities within their household budget. That’s why we offer TD Student Rush pricing on all of our Spotlight Series shows, allowing anyone with a student ID to purchase a ticket for only $12 two hours before show time. We also offer “Under 19” pricing, providing half-price tickets to anyone under the age of 19 for all Spotlight Series performances.
The Playhouse has an Experience More! series, featuring enrichment activities like workshops, film screenings, post-show conversations, food and drink events and more, all designed to enhance our patrons’ experience. Many of these activities are offered for free or for a very low cost, providing our audience with even more affordable ways to connect with the performing arts.
Our non-profit organization provides tickets through the Arts are for Everyone program to individuals in the community who may face a number of barriers – including financial difficulties – to attending a performance. These tickets are issued through various local community agencies that work on behalf of their clients or residents. We issue additional vouchers to the Fredericton Food Centre and the Multicultural Association of Fredericton as part of this initiative. In the 2016-2018 season, a total of 238 tickets were redeemed through the Arts are for Everyone program.
We’re continuing to provide affordable programming to the general public in our current season. We’re offering a total of five “Pay What You Will” performances in our Spotlight and Kidstage Series this year, as well as a number of free events.
Earlier this month, for example, we hosted local theatre group Solo Chicken Productions for a week-long creative residency that resulted in a free, public work-in-progress showing of their piece Pitch Black. In February, the Playhouse will celebrate Black History Month with a free lecture and concert called From Black Africa to the White House, presented in partnership with the New Brunswick African Association. This lecture is part of our Experience More! program, and will be delivered by Tayo Aluko, the creator and star of the upcoming Spotlight Series performance Call Mr. Robeson.
Times have changed in the world of the performing arts. We no longer have to dress up in formal attire for a night out at the theatre, and there’s also no need to break your budget to enjoy a live performance. If you think that attending live performances is reserved for the privileged, think again. Take a closer look at our offerings, and you’ll quickly see that experiencing the magic of the performing arts at the Playhouse really is accessible to everyone, regardless of their financial circumstances.
Tim Yerxa is the Executive Director of the Fredericton Playhouse.