Yay, site-specific theatre!
As my inaugural dip into my professional development fund, I used $65 on a subscription to Sold Out Crowd, something I had been interested in joining for about a year now.
As an independent theatre producer/artist, when I'm not working on one of my own shows or working at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, I try to see AS MUCH THEATRE AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE. Someday I will be an excellent dog lady/retired theatre patron. On top of that, I try to see as much of this theatre for free as I can, which usually works out as I have been fortunate to make friends in a number of theatre community circles. And I have my ways.
So then comes the question, how do I get into shows for free where I don't know anyone involved that can comp me in or at a new company that I've never even heard of before? How can I expand my knowledge of the LA Theatre community even further while supporting new artists...at no cost?
Sold Out Crowd is an annual subscription service that allows you *free* access to performances across the LA Theatre scene each week. It's not exactly free, because yes, you do pay a membership fee and then there are some minor additional fees which I will explain shortly. As someone new to the system, I purchased the cheapest membership level, which allows me a year's worth of access to reserving up to two seats per performance listed on their website. I thought this would be a good way for me and the co-founder of my company to share a membership. We could go see shows together, by ourselves or go on some dates when the other was busy. Their are higher levels of membership that allow you up to four tickets per performance as well as earlier or exclusive access to more "high end" productions at places like The Geffen, The Pasadena Playhouse, The Wallis Annenberg and Center Theatre Group.
Once you find a show that you like, you either pay a small service fee per ticket ($2-4) or use credits to reserve your tickets. Since I was referred by a member, she and I were each awarded enough credits to reserve four free tickets, at any time they were available. I also happened to mention this service in passing to some theatre-going friends of mine, who joined and granted me four more additional tickets. Which yes, by the way, if after reading this you think you might want to join, or use some of your professional development money for this service, mention my name, Isabella Petrini, and you will be gifted some free credits, woot.
Hopefully this doesn't sound too complicated so far. It's really simple. You buy a membership, you look at the listings, pick something you want to see and reserve your tickets either with credits or with a small service fee. Depending on the caliber of the shows, in theory, the membership should pretty much pay for itself after three or four shows. There is no limit to the amount of shows you can go to a year.
Throughout the business of my work schedule and mounting my own production, after being a member of Sold Our Crowd for a little over a month, I've seen two small house sized shows, both from companies I had never seen the work of before and two at larger, more financially endowed venues.
The first was Captain of the Bible Quiz Team, a site specific one man/woman show directed by Michael Michetti (the acclaimed artistic director of Boston Court) put up by Rogue Machine Theatre. I'm a huge fan of the fourth wall, so this show was a great way to get me out of my comfort zone, being immersed in the environment of the church service while learning a Lutheran minister's story of longing for acceptance, leadership and a socially unconventional relationship with God. I took along a patron friend of mine along that I had met at the Kirk Douglas Theatre and we both enjoyed this fresh and risky take on the conventional theatre outlet. The show was performed with a rotating cast of four different (incredibly talented) actors at a number of different Lutheran Churches across Los Angeles.
The second show I went to was the musical I Love You Because put up as a joint collaboration between the Red Brick Road Theatre Company and Endeavor Theatre Ensemble at the Grove Theatre Center in Burbank. Having only listened to the original off-Broadway cast recording and worked on some of the music in college musical theatre courses, I was excited to see the story play out on stage. Also, a friend of mine was playing the role of Jeff. I took along my friend Sasha, a great musical theatre fan also eager to finally see this show performed. I was happy to learn more about this company, watch some fresh talent and visit a Burbank venue I otherwise probably wouldn’t have known about.
The third show I went to was Barbecue by one of my old undergrad professors, Robert O'Hara at the Geffen Playhouse. This was a little more of a "high end" theatre experience in comparison to the other shows I had seen. This time I went on a date, and we both had a great time. The show was hilarious and had some excellent, thought-provoking reveals that were definitely current, yet uniquely framed for the kind of writing I have been coming across in contemporary American playwriting lately. Unfortunately my date had read a few too many spoilers in a New Yorker article reviewing the show's initial run at The Public Theatre last year, but luckily kept them secret from me and still greatly enjoyed the performance. We definitely recommend this one and you have about a week left to catch it; it must close on October 16th!
*This post was written in the fall of 2016; please excuse any date discrepancies.