City officials hope to keep a closer eye on the city's Theatre of the Performing Arts by giving theater commissioners free passes to events.
The city's six commissioners will be given two passes each to performances if seats are available, City Manager Gary Sloan said. In return, the commissioners will be asked to fill out questionnaires evaluating the shows and the appearance of the theater, Sloan said.
The program is designed to encourage commissioners, who are unpaid volunteers, to attend more shows and monitor changes at the theater, said Hal Malkin, a commissioner for the past 17 years. Some commissioners "haven't been attending even a majority of the events because it was impacting on them financially," Malkin said. He said he and his family spent $800 last year on theater tickets, which cost up to $30 apiece for Broadway-series shows.
The decision to offer free passes comes at a time when officials say ticket sales have slipped and theater operations are undergoing dramatic change. Jeff Brown, the city's theater director, said subscriptions to the theater's money-making Broadway series dropped from 9,000 to 8,000 in the past year. At most Broadway-series shows, Brown said, only a third of the 1,264 theater seats are filled.
Further, some city officials have objected to the salty language of several recent productions, he said.
The city decided in December to replace the current producers of the Broadway series with Cathy Rigby, Olympic gymnast-turned-actress, and her husband, Tom McCoy.
Scott Rogers, who has teamed with his father, Herb Rogers, to produce the Broadway series since the city bought the theater and renovated it 17 years ago, said the city is sending the wrong signal with its decision to give theater commissioners free passes. "If they don't buy tickets, and they're the theater commissioners, why do they expect anybody else to?" asked Rogers, whose last production will be in May.
In addition to the four Broadway productions scheduled each year, the theater has children's theater, symphony and community playhouse performances.