Times may be tough, but that can bring out the best in people.
We have all heard about Dr Theatre, the mythical medical supremo who somehow enables the infirm to perform a temporary cure on themselves when they need to go on stage. That spirit can run much deeper, as a pair of stories from either side of the Atlantic demonstrates this week.
The Ticket Bank
A year-long initiative has been announced by the Cultural Philanthropy Foundation and Cardboard Citizens with the goal of providing 1,000 theatre tickets for major productions every week to those who would not otherwise be able to afford them as the cost-of-living crisis bites.
The initial group of theatres participating comprises the Almeida, the Barbican, the Bush, the Gate, the National, the Roundhouse and Tara, but others will surely follow.
At the other end of the transaction, prospective participants will be identified by a series of charities including Centrepoint, The House of St Barnabas, The Longford Trust, Positive Action in Housing and a network of food banks and outreach programs.
Rather than purely offering free tickets, participants will be asked to donate what they can. This sounds like an exciting and innovative initiative that will both help those in need and, one hopes, instil a lifelong love of theatre into the kind of demographic that the industry is desperate to attract.
Anyone seeking further information or wishing to take advantage of the offer can find further information at The Ticket Bank web page.
Ain’t No Mo’
This critically-acclaimed Broadway show, which “seamlessly blends sketch comedy, satire and avant-garde theater” may have passed Londoners by but has broken at least one record.
Its writer and star, Jordan E Cooper, has taken the prize as the youngest black American playwright in the history of Broadway. Sadly, despite the praise, like so much else on stages both in London and New York, the producers found selling tickets to be a struggle and the show was therefore scheduled to close on Sunday after completing 22 previews and 21 performances.
Rather than nobly accepting defeat, Mr Cooper has penned an open letter and launched the #saveAINTNOMO campaign in the hope that he can give his baby a longer life, perhaps hoping to stretch performances and sales through the bestselling week of the theatrical year between Christmas and New Year and may be far further.
Mr Cooper may just have what it takes to succeed, given that friends who are supporting the project include high-profile stars such as RuPaul along with Will and Jade Pinkett Smith. The former is hosting a special performance, while the Hollywood stars have brought out a whole performance to boost the fighting fund.
After this column was drafted, some good news arrived from the producers who, thanks to Jordan E Cooper’s sterling work and the kindness of friends and supporters, have agreed to extend the run until Friday 23 December.
It is heart-warming to see how theatre folk support their own projects, their art and the community in these ways but, some might suggest, rather depressing that they need to.
Unfortunately, it isn’t all good news since in the lack of funding from Arts Council England continues to take its toll. The latest news came in the form of an announcement from the Watford Palace Theatre that artistic director Bridget Larmour, who will have been in post for close to 17 years, is stepping down and the theatre is not seeking a permanent replacement for the role.
Following the news from Hampstead last week, one fears that this could be the thin end of a very thick wedge.