At the Fredericton Playhouse, we’re always exploring new ways to make the performing arts more accessible to a wider audience, and to encourage patrons to take a chance on new and exciting work. With those two objectives in mind, last season we piloted a new ticket pricing idea called Pay What You Will.
Last year, we offered Pay What You Will pricing on two performances – a Kidstage Series show called Chris McKhool’s Fiddlefire, and the Spotlight Series performance 6 Guitars. Both were a big success, with nearly 1,000 patrons attending the two shows.
Knowing that the community will respond to a pricing method that’s a bit outside the box, we’ve decided to continue with Pay What You Will in our current season, and will once again offer it on two shows – a Kidstage performance called Moon Mouse: A Space Odyssey on Sunday, Feb. 26, and an encore Spotlight Series performance of the play Jake’s Gift on Tuesday, April 11.
The process of attending a Pay What You Will performance is similar to seeing any show at the Playhouse. Patrons still need to contact the box office in advance to book their seats. This type of ticket cannot be booked online, but orders can be placed either by phone, or in person at the box office. Audience members also have the option of visiting the box office in person on the day of the show for seats, subject to availability.
Upon arrival at the theatre, ushers provide patrons with an empty envelope. Once the show is over, everyone is asked to anonymously pay whatever amount they wish based on their individual experience, using cash, credit card or cheque. It is not an appeal for a donation. The voluntary payment that audience members make is truly their self-determined price of admission.
Ultimately, we are asking our audience to determine the price of their tickets. We believe strongly in the quality of artists we bring to the Playhouse as part of our Spotlight and Kidstage Series; we’re asking our patrons to take a chance on a show that might not be familiar to them, and to pay the ticket price they feel fairly reflects the performance they have just watched without extending beyond their own budget.
One of the goals of Pay What You Will pricing is to reduce barriers that may prevent individuals and families from attending shows. This is an objective we try to tackle through a number of programs and initiatives such as Arts are for Everyone, TD Student Rush and Under 19 pricing. Pay What You Will is yet another way for us to encourage broad participation in the performing arts.
We believe the arts should be an integral part of our lives, and that the Playhouse should be accessible to everyone in the community. We’re hopeful that initiatives like Pay What You Will can play a role in reducing financial barriers, and make it possible for more people in our community to experience the magic of the performing arts.
The second goal of this ticket pricing concept is to encourage our patrons to take a chance on a performance they may not have previously been familiar with. We’d like to think we’re mitigating some of the risk of seeing an unknown performance by allowing audience members to determine their ticket price once the artist has the chance to perform and win audiences over.
I believe patrons will greatly enjoy both of our Pay What You Will selections this season. Moon Mouse: A Space Odyssey is performed by Louisiana-based Lightwire Theater, a group known for their unique electroluminescent artistry, poignant storytelling and imagery-evoking music scores. This family-friendly show tells the story of a mouse who longs to fit in, and ends up taking a cosmic adventure while learning the importance of celebrating our differences.
Jake’s Gift is a poignant performance written and performed by Julia Mackey, which has been performed all across Canada and overseas. It’s a powerful, award-winning play about a Second World War veteran who returns to Normandy to commemorate the D-Day landings, and meets a young girl who challenges him to confront his past. This is a touching and important story about the legacy of remembrance.
I hope you’ll join us this season at one – or both – of our Pay What You Will performances, and take a chance on attending a performance for which you might not otherwise have purchased tickets.
Tim Yerxa is the Executive Director of the Fredericton Playhouse.