I understand that keeping a theater open is an unending struggle for absurdly scarce resources. (I was on the Mobtown Players' board for four years, before rising rent and floodwaters combined to put us out of business.) I understand, I sympathize . . . yet is this really the best fundraising idea our community has had? If we can't even give audiences time and space to digest a show before we beg for money, are we not implicitly reducing the show to crowd-bait? Are we not explicitly communicating that buying a ticket is not good enough—that if people really want to support a theater, they should buy a spot on the donor's list.
Well, maybe they should. But making that pitch from a stage still flecked with sweat, to an audience that is practically captive, seems more than tacky. It seems like preying on goodwill and guilt: We gave you culture. The least you can give us is five more bucks.
Let me step back from hyperbole. I'm sure much of my annoyance is that two of the three shows I saw were new plays. What a disservice to a writer, to interrupt audience members as their responses are still forming, because of course the more vital response is capital flowing to the producer!
Let me step back from crankiness. I recognize every theater's need to fundraise; I can even follow the logic that might lead theater-makers to decide the best time to fundraise is immediately after a performance. I think this is shortsighted and uncreative. It ends in a vision of theater as an obligation rather than a joy. We can do better. We must. Or the only people paying to support our work will be ourselves.