By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
The boldface rules of survival at The Hub have that "Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball" effect of injecting fear into what should be a pleasant experience. At this venue, when the lights go down and the house manager invites the audience to sit back, relax and enjoy the show, it sounds like a dare.
It's a tough time for theaters right now, and not just the one that smells like a serial killer's crawlspace. The economic squeeze is making it hard for customers to justify spending $15 to $60 to see a play. On the last night of its short run, Coronado drew only about a dozen patrons to The Hub and most of those were relatives or spouses of the actors. Near-empty houses have greeted recent performances of Leonard's Car at the spiffy new Bishop Arts Theater Center in Oak Cliff and A Soldier's Play in DeSoto. Whole rows went unsold for weekend performances at Theatre Three of The Light in the Piazza. WaterTower's studio was only half full for the opening of Make Me a Song; just 15 tickets were sold for the first Sunday matinee.
At Dallas Theater Center, ticket sales are about even with last year's run of Glengarry Glen Ross, according to artistic director Kevin Moriarty. But he says the current drama by Tracey Scott Wilson, a co-production with New York City's Public Theater, isn't the hot-selling success he'd hoped for. Says Moriarty, "Maybe opening a play called The Good Negro in Dallas, Texas, wasn't such a good idea."
Comedies are selling better. Closing weekend performances of Uptown Players' drag farce Legends were over-sold, with folding chairs set up in the aisles to accommodate the overflow. The Mummy's Claw, a for-all-ages mystery-comedy at Dallas Children's Theater, is filling the seats. And at Dallas' only for-profit playhouse, Pocket Sandwich Theatre, the latest popcorn-tosser, Sweeney Todd: Fiend of Fleet Street, is killing at the box office.
It's a cutthroat business—particularly in hard times when folks are looking for something to laugh about.