Arthur Christory / Gavel Media

BC Theatre Department Should Lower Ticket Prices

Up until recently, I was woefully ignorant of a central part of the artistic scene at Boston College—namely, the productions put on by the Theatre Department. Ranging from traditional plays to dance concerts to adaptations of literary classics, the offerings listed on the department website looked pretty interesting, yet I had never heard about them before. It highlighted productions of student work and displayed an inspiring introduction, waxing poetic about theatre as “a window onto history, a method of inquiry into all things human, and a vehicle for social change.” I was convinced; I could do my part in supporting student creativity and shell out a few bucks to go see a play at the Robsham Theater.

Then I scrolled to the bottom of the page and saw that a ticket would set me back 17.50 dollars, which put a decisive damper on my sudden fit of enthusiasm. No, wait—the price for students was 12.50. Slightly better, but it still gave me pause. You couldn’t say 17.50 or 12.50 were staggering prices, but they weren’t nothing, either. Going over my expenditures lately, I’d been (unpleasantly) surprised by how seemingly moderate amounts could build up over a few days or even a single day to a hefty total. What if I had to take the train back to campus for the show? What if I wanted Starbucks to keep me awake at the play? Add up these petty expenses, and the number can grow alarmingly.

And that’s viewing things from a position of relative privilege. I can pay for a ticket, a train ride, a drink, and know that I’m not cutting into a carefully-thought-out budget, but that’s not the case for everyone. Despite the blanket of affluence that seemingly hovers over campus, it’s simply not true that every student can pay 12 dollars for a play ticket without a second thought. Putting it in comparative terms, 12 dollars would pay for a meal on campus (not to mention several meals off campus). Let’s just say if it were the end of the month and I had to choose between food and an admittedly intriguing musical rendition of Candide, I don’t think Voltaire would be high on my list of priorities. 

And to be fair, this extends beyond BC to the general theater scene in Boston as well. Before writing this article, I did my research and found that compared with other theaters in the Boston area, BC prices unfortunately match the expense of other productions. Still, I will point out that students might be more reluctant to pay 12 dollars to see BC productions when the same amount covers a movie at the AMC or a professional play at Playwrights Theatre (just 10 dollars).

To be clear, I’m aware that the Theatre Department probably depends, whether to a lesser or larger extent, on audience revenue for its productions. I’m by no means a theatre connoisseur, but even I know that stage sets, lighting, costumes, and all the easily-overlooked minutiae of a show cost money (and according to my roommate who attended a play at Robsham recently, the costumes and set design were top-notch). 

While student workshop productions are likely cheaper to produce, the Theatre Department also showcases work of a more professional caliber—the descriptions on the department website mention collaborations with large theatrical companies and former alumni that consequently incur more expenses. But this raises the question: why doesn’t BC dedicate more funding to the Theatre Department, presumably reducing its financial dependence on ticket revenue and thus leading to lower admission prices?

There’s no downside. By lowering ticket prices, BC productions can expand their audience demographic to beyond those who are in some way connected with the theatre program or just (extremely) interested in theatre. Students could support their friends who put significant time and effort into these performances without being plagued by a $12.50 ticket for every show. And the thing is, the reduction in price doesn’t have to be a whopping amount. Even just a few dollars cheaper would make a difference to those hesitating to fork over the money. In the end, higher attendance might even bolster revenue. 

There is certainly no pressing reason for the BC theatre program to lower ticket prices at Robsham Theater; it’s not doing anything theaters across Boston aren’t also doing. But if they do, they’ll be making theatre a lot more accessible to a lot more people and that, by itself, would be remarkable. 

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