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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona Repertory Theatre aims to attract newcomers to shows

Ed Flores

The struggle is on as Hal (Alec Williams) and Claire (Kelly Hajek) try to figure out if it was really Catherine (Cera Naccarato) who wrote the ground-breaking proof in UA Arizona Repertory Theatre’s production of PROOF directed by Hank Stratton.

The greatest task facing the Arizona Repertory Theatre isn’t perfecting the performance of its young actors, it’s getting people into the seats to watch shows. 

On a critical level recent production “Proof” proved a success and recieved positive reviews. However, despite the good publicity and decreased ticket prices, ticket sales have largely remained the same.

RELATED: Review: ‘Proof’ proves its worth

Beginning this semester the Arizona Repertory Theatre dropped ticket prices to just $15 ffor UA students. Additionally, the theatre implemented a rush pricing option, which would allow UA students to purchase a ticket at a reduced price 30 minutes before the start of the show.

Yet even with the reduced price of tickets, the theatre has not seen the influx of student patrons they were hoping for.

“It’s not quite the surge that I had hoped,” said Lisa Pierce, director of marketing and development at the Arizona Repertory Theatre.

While reduced ticket prices might not have brought on the desired surge, the strategy did result in some benefits.

“I can say happily that we made our ticket sales goal for the budget of ‘Proof,’” Pierce said.

It seems that the challenge for the Arizona Repertory Theatre is attracting newcomers, the people who have yet to experience this unique class of performance art firsthand. 

The theatre already has cultivated a core group of attendees who consistently view its productions.

“The people that have been buying tickets were very happy to hear that (prices have) dropped, but I don’t think we’ve seen an increase in traffic based on the new price,” said Charles Cannon, box office manager at the Arizona Repertory Theatre.

Even though the theatre hasn’t quite seen the boost in attendees it anticipated, new theatergoers do still find them and enjoy their performances.

“The new people that have been coming in have been coming in because they heard ‘Proof’ was really good,” Cannon said.

According to Megan Gerrish, assistant box office manager at the theatre, word of mouth has so far been more effective at bringing in new audience members than the new ticket prices.

“It’s a lot of word of mouth,” Gerrish said. “A lot of patrons that have come to see ‘Twelfth Night’ actually told their friends about it and are coming again a second time bringing friends.”

Even with an increase of patrons attending the Theatre as a result of some free marketing, the Theatre still desires to capture more of the student demographic.

“There hasn’t been a huge influx yet of student sales; the influx of sales we are getting for ‘Twelfth Night’ were because we got a good review in the paper,” Gerrish said.

Gerrish said the vast majority of patrons who have attended productions thus far this semester have been of the same, largely senior, demographic as in previous semesters.

The Theatre has not yet sold a lot of the student rush tickets, Gerrish said. A rush ticket allows UA students to purchase a ticket at the box office the night of a play for $10-despite not being able to choose your own seat, it’s a highly discounted price.

RELATED: Arizona Repertory Theatre reduces ticket prices for UA students

“It’s not like we’ve sold zero,” Gerrish said. “A couple of nights we might sell five to 10.”

The show currently playing at the Arizona Repertory Theatre is “Twelfth Night,” an original play by William Shakespeare. The play’s story focuses around a shipwrecked girl who “disguises herself as a boy” and ultimately becomes caught in a love triangle.

Even with the name of Shakespeare attached to the play, a Shakespeare work can sometimes be “harder to market,” particularly for students, according to Gerrish.

Gerrish recounted one patron who had seemingly had enough of Shakespeare.

“He said, ‘Honey, I am 75 years old, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen ‘Twelfth Night,’ I don’t need to see it again,’” she said.

While there hasn’t yet been the anticipated rise in ticket sales by students from the last two plays, Pierce is confident that things will pick up.

“I know these things take time too,” she said. “Word still hasn’t, I don’t think, saturated out there on campus.”

Gerrish says that feedback from patrons has been positive.

“The talent, the skill, the actual quality of the production speaks for itself,” she said. “It’s getting people to just come the first time that is the goal and the constant battle that we face.”

Follow Victor Herrera on Twitter.

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