This week we’re inviting two guest bloggers, Molly Budke and Timothy Otte, to talk about Workhaus Collective’s new work and Mixed Blood’s new access program. First up is Otte, with Radical Hospitality. Check back for Budke's post on Friday.
There’s a lot to be excited about in the Twin Cities theatre scene this coming season, but the thing that’s got me most excited isn’t a specific production, performer or writer—it’s an idea. Earlier this year Mixed Blood Theatre announced their new access program for the 2011-2012 season, Radical Hospitality. As such, the theme of their season is Revolutionizing Access and it’s got me all sorts of riled up.
Let’s start with Radical Hospitality: what’s it mean? In short, it means no-cost admission to all mainstage Mixed Blood productions for any audience member. This means economic boundaries have been made null which opens up the theatre to an even broader range of people.
Let’s face it, going to the theatre can be expensive, and even those of us who work in the theatre have to pick and choose which shows to see and which we have to skip. Many theatre companies have instituted programs that provide lower ticket prices to those in need. There are “pay-what-you-can” nights, 2-for-1 deals, group and school discounts. With Radical Hospitality, Mixed Blood has made all of those programs look weak by comparison. Now, those people and communities who could never afford to go to the theatre, even if the production was targeted at them, will be able to enjoy some of the Twin Cities best without worrying about the ticket price.
Another thing that excites me about this is that, for the first time, I’ll be able to enjoy every show in a company’s season. I’ve always wanted to go on that journey with a company, seeing the myriad ways they explore a theme, or just enjoy a slate of productions on the same stage. I’ve always wanted, but could never afford, to be a consistent audience member at a company’s shows. Now I plan to be.
Mixed Blood has put together a 6 show season that includes a world premier (Crashing the Party by Josh Tobiessen, directed by Sarah Rasmussen) and a festival of plays about disability. (There will also be 4 partner shows with Children’s Theatre Company, Mu Performing Arts, Parkway Theater and the Ordway Center for Performing Arts, unfortunately not included in the Radical Hospitality program.) In keeping with their history, some of the Twin Cities best performers and directors will be working on these shows.
Mixed Blood’s Radical Hospitality program has the potential to change the game for theaters and theatre goers alike. The only potential drawback will be sustainability. Those audience members who are able and wish to will be able to pay guarantee seats at a show by paying a fee, or purchasing a season pass. The company hopes that the program will bring in a larger audience who will come to appreciate the importance of theatre and open their wallets accordingly, when and if they’re able.
But what if they don’t? Mixed Blood could always go back to charging for tickets. Their prices were never too expensive, so their shows would still be available to a broader audience than some theaters. But it would be a shame if this season were the only season of Radical Hospitality at Mixed Blood. I hope, after appreciating how lucky they are to experience quality theatre without paying a cent, people will decide to give whatever they can afford to keep such a unique program alive. It’s not required, but I guarantee it will be appreciated. Especially by those less well off, those people whose only theatrical experience may be Mixed Blood Theatre.
There’s a lot to be excited about in the Twin Cities Theatre scene this coming season, but it’s not available to everyone. Economic barriers prevent a spirited yet untapped audience from experiencing what many people take for granted. I’m excited about Mixed Blood’s Radical Hospitality because of the ways it could change for the better the ways I see and work in the theatre. Bravo to them. To you: enjoy the show!
Timothy Otte is a poet, playwright & theatre artist, as well as a 4th-generation St. Paul resident. He’s interested in that blurry line where poetry & theatre, text & performance, page & stage, careen into each other to become something hybrid & unexpected. He has a small collection of typewriters, a large collection of records & an even larger collection of books.