Open Art Policy

As I was on break from rehearsals this summer I thought about art, dance, the nature of performance, and the company's relationship to our audience. How do we want to relate to them? How do we want to construct or facilitate that relationship? What is the exchange in which we are engaging? How can we make this exchange more fluid, easier, and direct. I've come to realize one barrier in this relationship is the need to attach a fixed monetary value to the experience of attending a performance. What makes one of our performances worth $20 or $30, especially when compared to ticket prices at The Kennedy Center or even a place like Woolly Mammoth Theater. The performances we offer are on par with what is offered at those institutions, but I would feel uncomfortable asking for $50, $75, or more per ticket.

This got me thinking about prices in general and who determines these prices. Why is it the company or performance venue? What if we just let the audience decide? Maybe some people will pay $5 because that is what they see as its worth, or, of course, what their financial situation allows them to pay. Other people might go ahead and pay $50 or $75 because they value the work, understand the costs of putting on a production, and have the ability to pay that amount. Either way, I want all these people to come. I don't want people to be turned away because of finances or even willingness to pay, and I don't want to limit people's desire, or ability, to support what they value.

So, staring this fall my dance company, The PlayGround, will institute a new policy we're calling the Open Art Policy. From now on all performances and events we organize will be pay-what-can, or pay-what-you-value-it. This is obviously us taking a chance - what if everyone only pays $5? How will we pay the bills? But, I'm actually extremely optimistic. I believe what we offer has value people recognize,and those that can pay more, will pay more. Each time someone chooses a price it will not only be money to see a particular performance, but also a vote (in a way) towards us producing future performances. 

I hope our new Open Art Policy allows more people to see our work, allows people to be generous with their support, and help us to connect deeper and with greater vibrancy with our community.

*also, enjoy the picture of Stefanie Quinones Bass and Melissa Swaringen from when The PlayGround did a residency at James Madison U. and Melissa was a student there.  Photo by R. Finkelstein

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