The example set by Mixed Blood Theatre of Minneapolis, whose "Radical Hospitality" program lets patrons see shows for free, is catching on elsewhere.
Citing Mixed Blood, Forum Theatre of Silver Spring, Md., has begun an experiment that will eliminate price as a barrier to theater enjoyment. The company, whose $100,000 budget is a fraction of Mixed Blood's, is reserving roughly half of its 150-seat house as pay-what-you-can seats.
Michael Dove, Forum’s artistic director, told the Washington Post that the goal is to "make theater accessible to everyone, and get past the idea that it’s only for someone in a certain economic bracket.”
That will be a challenge.
Theater ticket prices have been rising steadily in recent years and now top $100 for Broadway tours in the Twin Cities. The Guthrie's top ticket costs $85. Those eye-popping prices eliminate those without means from the audience.
At Mixed Blood, which was founde by Jack Reuler (above), Radical Hospitality has resulted in a transformation of its audience, including an infusion of diverse young people.
Mixed Blood's attempt at radical inclusion is the boldest example so far. But the company is not alone.
Pillsbury House Theatre in Minneapolis has pay-what-you-can nights for all its productions. The company also has extended the concept to entire productions, including "Broke-ology" and its own production of "Buzzer" in its space (the show was brought back for a successful run at the Guthrie last year).