Pillsbury Theatre sets stage for a night out without the kids

  • Article by: ROHAN PRESTON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 10, 2011 - 10:37 PM

Pillsbury House Theatre in Minneapolis is offering free baby-sitting with tickets to select performances.

A Minneapolis theater has a new come-on that's bound to be enticing for arts-loving parents: "Buy a ticket, and we'll throw in a baby sitter at no extra charge."

In what may be a first for the Twin Cities, Pillsbury House Theatre is offering patrons free child care to select performances. The south Minneapolis playhouse, located in a neighborhood center with licensed caregivers, is saving dates for parents and tots for "Broke-ology," a play about love, family and tough straits that opens in March.

"We have this theater and this child-care facility and have been looking for ways to use them together," said communications manager Alan Berks. "It's an experiment. We want to make our theater accessible and welcoming for everyone."

Sixteen-month-old toddlers to 12-year-olds are welcome at the child-care center, which can accommodate 32 children, he added.

Patrons must indicate how many children they are bringing when making reservations.

"If there's a couple that wants to see the show and they have eight children, we'll not turn them away," said Berks.

As many parents know, child care can be costly. Club Kid, which has franchises in the Twin Cities, charges $8 an hour for the first child.

Historical amenity

There are been programs in the past that have pointed in this direction. Project Success, in partnerships with theaters, offers free tickets to under-served communities, and hires baby sitters on show nights.

The Guthrie Theater used to have a program, funded by Target Corp., in which teaching artists instructed children while their parents attended a matinee.

"For a lot of young parents, child care is a huge barrier to going to the theater," said Guthrie communications director Melodie Bahan.

"Take away that barrier, and everything gets easier."

The Pillsbury House child-care perk appears to run counter to cutbacks by arts groups in a tough economy. Mixed Blood Theatre, for example, has begun handing patrons a truncated program, with directions to a phone line and website for full bios of actors.

Pillsbury House is using funds from the Legacy Amendment for its production of "Broke-ology." The show will be a "pay-what-you-can" event -- theater patrons name the price they want to pay for admission, even on nights that include child care.

"Broke-ology," which is to be directed by James A. Williams, runs March 11 to April 10.

Rohan Preston • 612-673-4390

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