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Giving away thousands of free tickets would be a sure bet for getting some people in to see your stage show. That’s what 26 area theaters will do this October. Dallas is joining 120 cities in a nationwide program called Free Night of Theater.
The Theatre Communications Group, which supports nonprofit theaters, pioneered the ticket giveaway three years ago in Austin, Philadelphia and San Francisco. It’s been so successful that it has doubled in size each year. This fall, North Texas theaters will join more than 600 stage companies in such cities as New York, Chicago and Minneapolis to offer more than 75,000 free tickets across the country.
Greg MacPherson of the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs has spearheaded the effort locally. He says the goals for Free Night of Theater are to increase awareness of live theater and to draw in new audiences.
MacPherson: “We want to make tickets available to individuals who have never attended theater before, free of charge, try to remove that barrier of price, so that they might walk through the doors and experience something they haven’t experienced before. Additionally, we want to diversify the audiences that are already attending theater. Many times there are patrons who frequent just one theater in town and don’t necessarily go outside of that theater and try maybe a smaller company, a larger company or a different genre of theater.”
It works. Studying the effects of the ticket giveaway was part of the project. Last year’s program found 80 percent of free-night patrons returning later to buy theater tickets; 65 percent attended a theater they’d never been to before.
MacPherson: “I think those numbers show that once you open the doors, the theaters are doing a very good job of selling their product.”
Local participating theaters include the Dallas Theater Center, Theatre Three, WingSpan Theater, WaterTower Theatre, Lyric Stage, Teatro Dallas, the Jubilee Theater in Fort Worth. Several companies are setting aside one entire show; others distribute the free tickets among several performances. But together, they will give away 3,000 free tickets for shows from Oct. 16 through November 10.
In some towns, MacPherson says, the tickets were gone in 15 minutes. But the tickets will not be available until Oct. 1.
And the only way to reserve tickets will be online at dallasculture.org — beginning at noon on Wednesday, Oct. 1.
Ticket image from blog.guardian.co.uk.
Stage image from northeaststage.com