Forum Theatre Adopts "Pay What You Will" Program for Upcoming Season

News   Forum Theatre Adopts "Pay What You Will" Program for Upcoming Season
Maryland's Forum Theatre has announced that audiences can pay what they want for all productions in its upcoming season, according to the Washington Post.

The Silver Spring-based company is instituting a policy allowing patrons to pay whatever they think a performance is worth — for every show. The practice will start next month with its first production, Agnes Under the Big Top, in the space it occupies next to the AFI Silver Theatre. Under the program, patrons will be able to attend any Forum performance by paying as little as a quarter or 50 cents.

The effect the lower ticket prices may have on competing theatres, which charge up to $100 a ticket, remains to be seen. 

Michael Dove, Forum's artistic director, said he and the board will take the season to analyze the experiment.

According to the Washington Post, Forum has a $110,000 annual budget and a rent-free, receipts-sharing deal with its landlord Round House Theatre. The arrangement ends June 2014, when Round House gives up the Silver Spring space.

Some of the roughly 150 general admission seats at Forum's productions will be set aside each night for people who still want to book ahead, and those will be sold for $20. Becoming a member with added programming benefits for the entire five-play season (for less than $100) will also remain an option. Up until this year, the top single-ticket price at the Forum had been $25. The practice of lowering ticket prices to appeal to a younger audience demographic has been adopted by many theatres, including Minneapolis' Mixed Blood Theatre, which instituted a "Radical Hospitality" program that gives away half of the 200 seats in the house to walk-up customers free of charge every night. The remaining seats can be bought in advance for $20.

"The one thing I wanted to take a crack at is how do we make theatre accessible to everyone, and get past the idea that it's only for someone in a certain economic bracket," Dove told the Post.

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