Comp Crisis | Letters | Chicago Reader

Comp Crisis 

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I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw that someone wrote a letter to the Reader chastising a critic for noticing the "friend-to-stranger" ratio, and then saying it doesn't matter if the house is full of friends with comps, it is still an audience, let's get over it.

Ughghghghghghghghghghghghg! Whaaaaaaaat! Tip number one--if you are not proud enough of your show to make people pay for it, then no one is going to be. Contrary to whatever you may have heard or feel, it is OK to make people pay for their tickets. It is important that we all start to do this. It is survival. No more needless comps!

First of all, everybody gets a couple of tickets to see a show every now and then, such is life, but I know for a fact that it is entirely possible to see almost any off-Loop show for free. How do I know? I hear people brag about it. Someone has to put a stop to this waste.

This may seem harsh, stingy, or just plain greedy at first. The cast and crew worked very hard to make this show, don't they deserve a couple of tickets each to pass on to friends and family? No, and because they do work so damn hard to make the show. Everybody spends so much time on a production, for little or no money. The way I see it they did not do all that work, to make something they can be proud of, just to see it be given away for free. No wonder they aren't making any money.

I think it goes without saying, we all want full houses to watch our shows. The problems arise in the ways we go to get those people there. It seems the standard way is to fill houses with comps, in the hope that will get the word out. Also we like to have a full house for the critics. Think about this. It seems harmless enough, I guess, but it is not only bad it is lethal. What it does is remove a whole bunch of people who should have paid and send out the message that free tickets can be had for this show. Now who is going to buy a ticket when you can get one for free. I cannot say that this marketing strategy is the most sound one I have ever heard.

Myth of the ages: comps are just free tickets. No. Sorry, sadly they are not. Someone paid for them. When you give someone a comp you are basically having the producer pay to have them watch the show.

Hey the ticket may have been free, but creating theater certainly isn't. Most shows lose money. Why do you think everyone has become so dependent on the NEA, or are doing all their productions in a basement? Before you ever make your producer buy your friend or relative a ticket again think about what might have become of that money. Rent, actors' salaries, the director, stage manager, assistant stage manager, lighting designer, sound designer, advertising, house manager, etc. All these things that cost money, all these people deserve to be paid.

I am not here to judge. I only have views that I feel are important and should be heard. I love Chicago. I have a debt with this town that can never be repaid. This city allows its theater community to do things LA and New York have no idea or way to comprehend. We, as a whole, have to feel that way. Be proud of what we do. Realize we are a part of something very important. Every day is a struggle, a fight to find the money to continue, to survive. We cannot afford to throw away one penny. When we are all rich we can let anyone in for free, but we are not there yet. Let's work together to get there.

Gordon Penn

N. Kenmore

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