New York City knows how to do live theater, and one thing that Big Apple stages learned several years ago was that giving away free tickets is a great way to lure in first-timer playgoers. Moreover, they soon found the results to be extraordinary. The annual Free Night of Theater not only does a great job of connecting with new demographic groups, but those people, once they’ve tasted the fruit of live performance, are highly likely to return as ticket buyers. A few years back, San Francisco’s Theatre Bay Area organization teamed up with New York’s major Theater Publicity Group to test out the whole “free theater” thing in the Bay Area, with the same results as in New York. For 2009, nearly a hundred Bay Area theaters are participating, but the Free Night of Theater is no longer relegated to just one day, having been spread out over the entire month of October.
In the North Bay, six theater companies will be giving away tickets for a total of 10 performances. Participants include Marin Theatre Company, offering free viewings of Chaim Potok’s My Name Is Asher Lev on Oct. 4, and Petaluma’s Cinnabar Theater, with free tickets for the metaphysical comedy On the Verge, Oct. 8 (above). Ross Valley Players invite folks to see Dale Wasserman’s literary spook Premiere on Oct. 2, and Santa Rosa’s Narrow Way Stage Company is opening the doors for (count ’em) three nights, Oct. 1, 3 and 10, for their new production of Laurence Fishburne’s hip-hop drama Riff Raff, performed in the Studio at Santa Rosa’s Sixth Street Playhouse.
In San Rafael, the experimental AlterTheater Ensemble opens its doors for two performances of Brian Thorstenson’s comedic The Horses Oct. 22&–23. Finally, Sonoma County Repertory Theatre offers Conrad Bishop’s visually stunning, dreamlike staging of Shakespeare’s Tempest on Oct. 10.
But here’s the trick: tickets must be reserved online through the www.tixbayarea.com website. You must register, and no one may reserve more than one pair of tickets, so choose carefully. All tickets will be made available starting Sept. 30, and are first-come, first-served. Details on all available productions, including those in San Francisco and beyond, can be found on the site. Mark Sept. 30 as the day when it once again is clear that “free” is the new “hooray!”
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