Announcements for the 2011-12 theater season are beginning. CityBeat usually doesn’t devote much space to such matters because we know our readers tend to want information about what’s happening in the week ahead rather than next fall or the spring of 2012.
Nevertheless, assembling a smart season is essential to theaters. That effort enables them to sell subscriptions (that is, tickets for multiple productions). Subscription dollars help theaters budget predictably and manage the expenses for sets and costumes. As well as actors, directors and designers, theaters must pay those who work year-round in administrative capacities. Few companies generate more than 30 percent of their operating budgets with ticket sales, so other fund-raising is always necessary. Still, ticket dollars are vital.
Artistic directors hope audiences will have faith that they will choose shows they will love. Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati has established an enviable track record in this arena. Its subscribers often re-up before Lynn Meyers announces which shows will be offered. ETC faces an additional challenge in that its niche — new plays — requires lots of negotiation to obtain permission to present works just recently staged in New York or elsewhere.
An attractive season can drive single-ticket sales, too.
Since 2001, such ticket buyers have become increasingly important to many theaters. Many contemporary theatergoers prefer to choose the shows they want to see at various theaters, rather than be locked into a single company. Hence, it’s all the more important to open a season with a promising hit that will get a lot of people to show up and learn more about what’s to come. It’s also important to have shows that inspire strong word-of-mouth from people who will recommend them to friends.
Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park will announce its 2011-12 plans on Sunday (get details here). They’ve already tipped us off to one noteworthy show, a March 2012 staging of Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along by Tony Award-winning director John Doyle. (His 2006 revival of Sondheim’s Company went straight from the Playhouse to New York where it won a Tony for the Broadway season’s best musical revival.) We can also expect a new play by Cincinnati playwright Theresa Rebeck.
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company is in the midst of a strong season, including a sold-out run of Pride and Prejudice. For the coming year, it will begin in September with A Man for All Season, starring award-winning actor Bruce Cromer as the principled Sir Thomas More butting heads with willful King Henry VIII. Three plays by the Bard follow: Macbeth (a creepy tragedy for Halloween), Love’s Labour’s Lost (for the holidays) and Henry VIII (January 2012), with actors from A Man for All Seasons reprising parallel roles in one of Shakespeare’s seldom staged works. (This will be CSC’s first time to produce the play.)
Next February CSC hopes to repeat the success of Pride and Prejudice with another Jane Austen stage adaptation, Sense and Sensibility. April 2012 will offer an American classic, Frank Galati’s stage adaptation of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, and the season will close with Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice (May 2012).
CSC’s season also includes a summer 2011 production of Alan Ayckbourn’s sophisticated comedy, Bedroom Farce. It’s an appealing set of works that should continue the company’s recent successful track record.
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