A free night of theater on dozens of stages around Los Angeles
Companies large and small will give away seats for selected shows in October through LA Stage Alliance's Free Night of Theater 2010, part of an audience-development initiative begun five years ago by Theatre Communications Group, the national not-for-profit theater organization.
Each fall, theaters around the country offer complimentary tickets on a first-come basis to encourage playgoers to visit venues they haven't been to before.
This year, LA Stage Alliance is trying a different distribution approach -- "enter to win" -- in which people can sign up at www.FreeNightLA.com in hopes of obtaining a pair of tickets to as many as five shows.
Currently, more than 100 performances at more than 35 theaters from Oct. 14-31 are listed. The numbers are expected to grow, says Douglas Clayton, the alliance's programs director, so requests can be updated until the cutoff time of 6 p.m. Oct. 6.
Winners will be randomly chosen, he adds, "although selections will be weighted slightly based on the preferences of patrons and whether they have attended a theater in the past." The results will be e-mailed on Oct. 9.
Clayton says the "enter to win" idea has been discussed for several years because first-come offers can lead to rushes on websites that "tended to shut down computer systems. It also means a lot of patrons get on a site and see a bunch of sold-out shows while theaters might have 500 interested people but only know about the first 20 who signed up. This way, they can reach out to everyone."
TCG lacked the money to create a system to support "enter to win," says Clayton, "however we were lucky because we receive funding from Sony for our free night, so we were able to build one. If it works, we can roll it out to other cities."
In the four years it has participated, LA Stage Alliance says, it has given away more than 15,000 tickets. In the past, says Clayton, dozens of theaters have joined in, from 60-seat houses "up to the Colony, the Geffen and usually the Kirk Douglas."
"The program has brought in thousands of patrons who have not experienced theater before, and a large percentage of them come back to purchase full-price tickets or subscriptions."
Among the theaters already signed up:
24th Street Theatre
68 Cent Crew Theatre Company
A Noise Within
Action! Theatre Company
Actors Co-op/Crossley Theatre
Angry Amish Productions
Cabrillo Music Theatre
Company of Angels
Eclectic Company Theatre
Inland Valley Repertory Theatre
Interact Theatre Company
La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts
MainStreet Theatre Company
Malabar Hill Films
Pacific Resident Theatre
Phantom Projects Theatre Group
Reasoner Associates LLC
Sacred Fools Theatre Company
Son of Semele Ensemble
The Antaeus Company
The Blank Theatre Company
The Broad Stage
The Colony Theatre Company
The Group Rep at the Lonny Chapman Theatre
The Los Angeles Theatre Center (LATC)
The Theatre @ Boston Court
The Visceral Company
Two Roads Theatre
West Coast Jewish Theatre
Photo: The auditorium of the Broad Stage in Santa Monica. Credit: Benny Chan / Fotoworks.