Monday, October 8, 2012

The $30 play ticket

You may have heard that Actor's Theatre of Charlotte signed a contract with Actors Equity Association to pay all its performers a minimum salary, according to union rules. This is good news for a lot of reasons, and you'll find out why here:

At the same time, it has led to a $2 bump in single ticket prices: ATC is now charging $31 on weekend nights for seats. As far as I know, it's the first local theater to get that price for all shows throughout a season. (The Broadway Lights touring productions that come to the Belk and Ovens cost a lot more, of course.)

I used to hear scuttlebutt that theaters wanted to keep the first digit of the ticket price a "2," for fear of scaring patrons away. ATC is in the middle of its first show under the new contract, "God of Carnage," so the company won't know for a while how single ticket sales are affected. But I can't imagine people saying, "$58 for my wife and me was perfectly fine, but $62 is outrageous!"

The shows still seem like a bargain to me. You can pay a lot more for a lot less entertainment (insert Panthers joke here), and you'd spend $31 these days on two-thirds of a carton of cigarettes or an average steak at an upscale restaurant. Both would probably be forgotten as soon as they were consumed.

How does one put a "value" on theater, anyhow? If we remember it for a day, is it "worth" $10? For a week, $20? For a decade, $100? I saw Lynn Redgrave in George Bernard Shaw's "Saint Joan" 35 years ago; I can still remember the emotions that rocked me and the speeches that left me thinking about war and male-female relations and the nature of Christianity. I think $30 is a small price to pay for any experience that might just last a lifetime.