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ART to Cut Ticket Prices to Try to Hike Attendance


Attendance doldrums continue for Alternative Repertory Theatre, prompting a monthlong price drop for the current production, "Psychopathia Sexualis" in hopes of building an audience.

ART's leaders had looked to John Patrick Shanley's light sex comedy to boost attendance, which has been flat since the 13-year-old company moved in January 1999 to a new stage in the Artists Village district of downtown Santa Ana.

But producer Gary Christensen said Thursday that, despite ART's first-ever sustained newspaper advertising campaign for a show, "Psychopathia" has drawn only about 25 playgoers per performance--35% of the show's 72-seat capacity. Christensen said there has been no improvement over ART's previous production, "Long Day's Journey Into Night." Slack attendance for that dark Eugene O'Neill classic prompted the theater to put out an emergency appeal for donations.

The successful funding drive, which raised $15,000, and a subsequent $50,000 sponsorship grant from BMC Software eliminated ART's immediate financial crisis. But audience-building remains a challenge.

The answer, for now, is dropping ticket prices $5--from $25 to $20 on Saturday nights, and from $22 to $17 on Fridays and Sundays. The discount will be in effect for May; "Psychopathia" is scheduled to run weekends until June 24.

Christensen and ART's artistic director, Patricia L. Terry, are in a critical phase of planning for next season as they pick a list of plays they expect to announce June 8 to kick off subscription sales.

"We're trying to find the right ticket price balanced with the right kind of plays," Christensen said. To that end, current subscribers will receive a list of all the plays ever produced by ART, from which they are being asked to pick their five favorites.

The list of plays will give directors an idea of audience tastes; Christensen has said repeat performances are one option he will consider.

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