Thursday, April 9, 2009

How Many are Too Few?

I was incredibly dissapointed this afternoon to receive a phone call from the Vancouver Playhouse informing me that the performance of Studies in Motion to which I had booked tickets was being cancelled due to lack of attendance.

The performance was scheduled for next Thursday afternoon and for me, a week day matinee is the ideal time to see a show. If I am in performances, I have my day times free and this coming week when I am off work I have booked in evening performances most nights of the week and squeeze in a matinee as well (of course they also tend to be more affordable - in this case a difference of about $15). At this point the Playhouse has refunded my ticket without any problem, but I am uncertain if I will be able to see the show now despite really wanting to. Am I willing to shell out the additional money to go to an evening show? Do I have an evening free to go? What about the closing Saturday matinee?

So I'm curious: how many people are too few to do a show for?

I can understand the need to have enough people to cover costs, but for any union house, you wouldn't be paying performers & stage management extra per show - 8 shows per week are written into the Equity contract. The only additional fees that would exist would be technicians who are paid hourly & any additional front of house and bar staff. There really must not have been many of us booked in for that matinee.

In a smaller theatre where there is no hourly staff, I've done shows for as few as four people. In a Fringe situation I can remember doing shows for two. Friends tell stories of doing a production of "Jack, or the Submission" for one elderly woman who at the end, when asked how the production was, said, "That was exhausting!" Reality is, in smaller theatres we can make those decisions and go on with the show.

Backstage during co-ops there are always the whispers of "if the house is smaller than the size of the cast we can cancel" but each time I've been in that situation, the cast has chosen to go on with the show: they've come this far, they don't want to turn back now. And I've had positive experiences in doing those smaller audience shows. There are people who have come up to the performers afterwards talking about how touched they were by the show. And we've been glad that we haven't cancelled.

What would it take for you to cancel a performance?


lindsay said...

Oh the memories of small Fringe houses.... I did a show in Montreal at midnight for two volunteers. The show must go on, I guess. I don't think we even considered canceling. But we were young....

Bex said...

This is the second time the Playhouse has done this show--it's a revamped remount. And Colin didn't give it a good review, although Jo did.
Does the critic's view affect the box office so deeply? Or is it just because you were choosing to go to an obscure show?

SMLois said...

The first production was out at UBC in the Freddy Wood Theatre, so this is the first time that the production has been in a non-educational facility. Also, from everyone who I've talked to (and even according to Colin's review), this remount is stronger than the original production.

One thing that may have affected the box office so deeply at the Playhouse is that the show contains a lot of nudity, which may not have sat well with the elderly matinee subscribers.

Deb said...

I only cancel if nobody comes... I think Studies In Motion is a strong show - one of those "you MUST see this" types - and houses will grow.