Unfair Park, the Dallas Observer‘s blog, reports that the Dallas Theater Center is selling seats in the new Wyly Theater via a complicated “points” system akin to the one that the Dallas Opera used. These are systems that reward monetary contributions to the company over, say, long-term subscriber loyalty.
In short, ante up.
But Observer theater critic Elaine Liner opines that pushing for a “better” seat will be wasted. Given the vaunted flexibility of the new space, one seat’s sightlines could wind up as good as any other. Maybe. This might hold true for the first season or so, when directors and designers like to play with the new toys, find out what they’re capable of and, of course, show off.
But my experience with even the most experimental spaces — if they have regular resident companies and season offerings — is that eventually, they settle on certain, proven arrangements. It’s human nature and it’s smart: The backstage people learn what works. Also, the front-of-house people learn that, while some theatergoers like to find a new experience every time they attend, many other theatergoers don’t like the completely unexpected: Sorry, ma’am, but with this stage design, your favorite seat location will be pointed in the wrong direction.
The only theater companies that manage to re-invent the wheel each time are ones that don’t have expensive stagings. Or large audiences. That’s why off-off-Broadway (or Deep Ellum) spaces and their crowds tend to be smaller: These are the theatergoers who like the completely unexpected, and these are the theater spaces where seating is either always intimate or more or less dicey.
So … back to the DTC seating. If you want to play by this system, if you’re going to lay down the money, I’d say that front of house/front of balcony are likely to be safe bets. They usually are. The theater would be foolish to antagonize bigger donors by perching them somewhere inconvenient, whatever the arrangement.