Tuesday, August 9, 2011

How do you feel about comps?

Contributed by Shay Gines

I wanted to talk about something that is a little bit controversial in the OOB community - Comp Tickets. My friend Jason Bowcutt and I have had an ongoing debate about comps to Indie shows.

There are a lot of indie shows that we want to see. We don't always have the time or the money to attend all of the amazing stuff that happening in this community. 

It is important for us to see as much of the work as we can. If we don't have the money, it is more important to see the work than it is to pay for the ticket. So it is completely acceptable to take advantage of industry and Equity comps. 

As someone who has been a producer, I know how much every dollar means. When I reviewed shows I had no problem accepting the comps because I felt I was doing a service for the production by providing publicity and critique. The same is true if I helped paint the set or helped out at the box office, etc. However, if I am just going to see the production for myself, I feel uncomfortable asking for comps. Moreover, I feel that so much work goes into getting these shows up on their feet, that they have earned my $20. 

Of course there are a lot of shows that I miss because I'm short on cash.

So, what are your thoughts? Which is more important seeing the show, or paying for the ticket? Do you have a personal code when it comes to accepting comps?


  1. If I'm offered a comp because of my producer status (I am not AEA, so therefore not eligible for AEA freebies) that's the sort of thing that I graciously accept when I'm short of cash, and then if there is something I can buy at the theater, bottle of water or glass of wine, that helps those folks out, I do. If I'm adjudicating or reviewing (which I never do, btw) I agree with Shay, it's a service in exchange for the ticket.

    But in general, when it's something I want to see, even if I have friends on board who could get me in, I rarely go asking. I know how important every dime is. I know I need every dime that Retro makes on our shows to pay for the show, and I assume it is the same for everyone else.

    As a producer I get a tiny bit ruffled when folks contact me asking for comps when they haven't helped out in any way (but if I invite someone and they say yes, I'm so happy to have them)... because it feels like someone is trying to get something for nothing, and I often wonder if those people realize how long the list of people is that get comps automatically... the actors, the director and designers, the company members, the press, the agents and managers and casting directors, the list goes on and on... and when you're working in a small house you can find entire performances sold out without making a dime.

    So yeah, I try as often as possible to pay for my ticket. Even when it is really difficult. But it's true, if I can't manage it financially sometimes I miss out on some crazy awesome stuff.

  2. I think seeing the show and filling the house, whether you pay for tix or not, is more important. As an actor, it is better for me to have a packed audience. Actors work for free all the time, so when I use my AEA card to see an Off-Off Broadway show that is not sold out, I think it is fair. There are shows I would otherwise not be able to afford to see. And I generally give a few dollars anyway.

  3. Producers should be rightly infuriated by being forced to make the choice between offering comps and having a less than full house for the actors to play for. That's why I like programs like TDF's 9 dollar a ticket voucher. It's a "pay something" program, which I think is a fair compromise. Also, i notice producers giving discounts now, in place of comps, which again I think is a savvy compromise. I'm with you, Shay, in that I agree it is vital to pay full price if at all possible. Our survival depends on it. I'm with Jason too, because I do understand that on occasion, when money is tight,but ones presence at a show is "commanded" the acceptance of a comp is a necessary evil.

  4. Some alternative ticketing ideas:

    Soho Rep's 99 Cent Sundays

    NY Neo Futurist's 10 dollars plus roll of a dice

    Industry nights

    Discounts for tweets/likes in social media

    Pay what you can (but enticements/prizes for audience member that pays the most)

    Tiered pricing: first batch of tickets are a dollar, second batch 5 dollars, etc....

  5. I am with you Shay. I know the work that goes into a production, and for the most part, even when I produce or write a show for OOB that sells well, I have barely broken even. So I rather pay. I have taken advantage of comps only as an NYITA judge, or when I review for Martin Denton. It's all about giving value to the work; I also miss a ton of shows cause I am often saving up my cash to produce my own play. But it makes those I do go see really special experiences.

  6. Hey there, Jason here with some contined thoughts on this. Having produced shows myself I agree entirely with Shay's point of view, every dollar counts. The point that I would make about this comes in the line "Of course there are a lot of shows that I miss because I'm short on cash."

    My point of view about comps came entirely from being one of the co-executive directors of the IT Awards and my desire to see as much OOB as I possibly could as the entire basis of our organization was about bolstering and building the OOB community and I felt I needed to know who that community was. While in NYC I paid to see as many OOB shows as I could so that I could have a deep knowledge of the companies we were promoting at Awards time and simply put, I was poor. The only way for me to see some of the shows was to ask if the theatre provided industry comps. Every time I went to a Theatre on an industry comp the producers were very happy to provide the ticket and I spent time talking with them, getting to know who they were and helping them know better who we were.

    My life is quite different now, I am making a much better living and as a result I do not request industry comps. I am happy to put my money down to support what I love. Back in my OOB days though those industry comps introduced me to companies and work I truly would not have been able to experience otherwise.

  7. Ooh. this is such an interesting conversation.
    I don't think that there is a hard and fast rule here. When I am attending a show as "industry" meaning reviewing, judging, or as a producer/artistic director and need/want to see a specific company's work, director or performer then I expect a comp. If a company offers me a comp, then I take it that they want me to see their work and I will gladly accept it. I always support via the top jar, consessions or another way.

    I agree with Jason, that I'd much rather have a member of the It Awards Honorary Awards committee or the EDS come to my show and not pay than not be familiar with a show I am really proud of and want to get the word out about.

    As theatre goer, I never feel bad about taking a comp for a Off- Broadway or Broadway show, and sometimes from fellow OOBR producers who are papering the house. But I rarely ask for a comp for OOBR theatre, because i know how much time, money and effort goes into producing theatre at our level.

    As a producer, I often find that if we do some papering with a papering organization we see the results 10 fold in the following week. I would always prefer to have butts in seats then cold empty chairs. I think that papering and comp policies depend on the size of the house (there's a huge difference btw giving comps in a house like the Red Room vs a house like the Kraine)

    To sum it up, I don't think there's any "shame" in accepting a comp if offered, but as a community when we can, we should definetely pay for the tickets to help each other out.