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Coming: Free passes to theater

September 05, 2006|Mike Boehm | Times Staff Writer

Talk about giving away the plot: On Oct. 19, thousands of seats will come gratis at more than 50 stage companies in Los Angeles and surrounding counties.

From Ventura to Anaheim, from Venice to Upland, the national "Free Night of Theater 2006" promotion will mean freebies for 5,000 or more playgoers in Southern California; the same terms are expected to apply at 500 theaters nationwide.

Some of the offers may be limited, but here the attractions include Cherry Jones in "Doubt" at the Ahmanson Theatre, Vanessa Redgrave in "Nightingale" at the Mark Taper Forum, as well as unheralded thespians performing on storefront stages across the landscape.

The promotion, organized nationally by Theatre Communications Group, a service organization for nonprofit theaters, was launched last year in San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Austin, Texas. This year, it is being extended to 15 cities and states. In L.A. a gift of $30,000 from the Annenberg Foundation, along with sponsorships from the James Irvine Foundation and Los Angeles Times, are driving a $63,000 marketing effort that will include newspaper ads and possibly TV spots, said Terence McFarland, executive director of L.A. Stage Alliance, which is coordinating the local effort and recruiting participants from among its 230 member companies.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday September 09, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 43 words Type of Material: Correction
"Nightingale": An article in Tuesday's Calendar section about an effort to entice new theatergoers with free tickets to more than 50 shows on Oct. 19 said Vanessa Redgrave was the star of "Nightingale" at the Mark Taper Forum. The play features Lynn Redgrave.

The freebies will be available starting Oct. 3 via the event's website, www.lastagetix.com/freenight. Each participating theater decides how many seats to give away. The hope, McFarland said, is that theater virgins will take the plunge and that veteran playgoers will take chances on companies whose work they haven't seen.

A survey of San Franciscans who took up the offer last year showed that 69% of the 2,500 respondents used the play giveaway to try a new theater, and about 20% liked what they saw enough to go back as paying customers. TCG launched "Free Night of Theater" as part of a drive to boost annual attendance at nonprofit theaters from 32 million to 50 million by 2016.

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mike.boehm@latimes.com

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