Stephen Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Thu Apr 1 09:38:46 PST 2004

List  mates:

"Most people have no idea what they want to see. (or hear, my note) So
if you give them a reason they'll usually come." This quote from the
below article sums it all up for artistic endeavors including OKOM band
sessions, festivals, etc.

It is distressing to hear of OKOM Festivals folding, and/or cutting
back. To hear folks say we can't get an audience, etc.., etc. The
question is, "What are "we" doing at the grass roots level to get
audiences?" Take a page from the story below about "Gypsy" a revival
starring Bernadette Peters. They are in a very competitive environment
given all the consumer choices a the Ticket Booth.

Steve Barbone

April 1, 2004 - New York Times

Hey, Wanna See Me Onstage? Buy a Ticket!


      Benjamin Brooks Cohen had never been on Broadway before he was
cast in "Gypsy," the $8 million revival starring Bernadette Peters at
the Shubert Theater, and he apparently has no intention of letting the
experience go without a fight.

The 25-year-old Mr. Cohen is so determined that on a frigid Tuesday
afternoon he was in Duffy Square in a thick coat, cajoling people
outside the TKTS booth to buy half-price tickets for his show.

"It's better than anything on Broadway," Mr. Cohen told a pair of Dutch

"Really?" responded Ingrid Buysen, a notary who lives outside Amsterdam.

"Well, yeah, of course," Mr. Cohen said. "I'm in it."

And in it is where he wants to stay, so much so that he has organized
cast members to volunteer outside the TKTS booth to sell their show. And
like Momma Rose herself, the fast-talking promoter at the heart of
"Gypsy," they've got a dandy gimmick.

"Most people have no idea what they want to see," explained Mr. Cohen,
who plays one of the dancers in Rose's vaudeville act. "So if you give
them a reason to come, like 'I'm in the show,' they'll usually come."

It is a grass-roots effort that might be working. Since March 10, the
cast's first day on the TKTS line, the show has been averaging sales of
more than 300 half-price tickets a day. Prior to the campaign the show
rarely broke 200 at the booth.

On March 25 alone, the booth sold 560 tickets with the help of the
cast's sales work. And last week "Gypsy" played to 85.5 percent of its
capacity at the 1,447-seat Shubert, with a gross of $574,302, its best
in a month and one that put the show healthily in the black for the
week. Some might note of course that the reason so many tickets are
being sold at the booth is that so few tickets are being sold at full
price elsewhere. For all the cast's efforts, there is no guarantee that
the show will make it past Easter.

"Things are still week to week," said Ron Kastner, one of the show's
producers. "We say we want to stay open till Labor Day, we want to make
it to the summer and the tourists, but it's still fragile."

He also confirmed that the show's advance ticket sales, which are
critical to long-term success, remain perilously low, only about $1.5
million spread out over several months.

"I wish it was growing, but it is not," he said.

The show has already had one brush with the end. On Feb. 2 producers
announced that they would close the show at the end of the month, citing
weak sales, a dwindling advance and a brutal stretch of
audience-thinning weather. Then, nine days later, after a spate of sales
and a series of salary and royalty
concessions, the producers took down the closing notice.

Since then Mr. Kastner and his other producers have employed many of
financial and marketing strategies available to the modern Broadway
producer, including direct mail and e-mail campaigns. The producers,
with the permission of the creative team, also cut royalty payments for
everyone from the director to Stephen Sondheim, the lyricist. The
Shubert Organization, eager to keep its flagship theater lighted, gave
the show a break on the rent, and Ms. Peters and other cast members also
made salary concessions. The show celebrated the first anniversary of
its first performance on Broadway yesterday.

Those measures helped lower the show's running cost to $400,000 to
$450,000 a week, depending on advertising, Mr. Kastner said. (The show
has done little print advertising in recent months but has increased its
radio commercials.) The production also started offering Sunday
matinees, which are popular with audiences, and its star and its star
director, Sam Mendes, hit the talk shows and participated in
post-performance discussions with the audience.

But of all of the maneuvering, it seems the most persuasive group of
salesmen are showmen.

"We have a young cast, and for a lot of them this is their first
Broadway show," Ms. Peters said. "The kids come back and say, `We sold
all the tickets at TKTS,' and they're just thrilled. It's infectious."

That sort of enthusiasm seemed to be evident on Tuesday. Mr. Cohen and
Heather Lee, who plays a stripper in the show, chatted amiably with TKTS
customers as they snaked their way through the line. Many asked Mr.
Cohen and Ms. Lee what show they would recommend. Their answer was

Anne Boenisch and her daughter Heidi, both from Portland, Ore., were
convinced. "We really like Bernadette Peters," the older Ms. Boenisch
said. "But we're going because of him."

More information about the Dixielandjazz mailing list