Are Corporate Sponsors Ruining Shakespeare in the Park?
Shakespeare in the Park began it's 50th season last week, a festival which has grown into a city birthright or tradition. Tickets are still free, although sometimes quite hard to get. But more and more, Shakespeare in the Park is tending away from the bedrock principle on which it was founded: that all tickets should be free.
Joe Papp, the secular saint who fought for years to build a theater in Central Park, was able to rely mostly on the city government and a collection of munificent New Yorkers to fund his new theater. These days, however, Shakespeare in the Park receives its primary support from large corporations such as Bank of America and Bloomberg – and they want to be thanked.
Although it's not certain just how many tickets go to corporate sponsors, the former executive director said that, on an individual night, the percentage of seats allocated to donors can hit 30%.
Individuals, too, can jump the queue for a price. This season, it’s $175 to become a “summer supporter”, which gets you a reserved seat and a few other nice benefits. (And, again, it’s tax-deductible – so if you’re itemizing next year, the tickets might actually cost you nothing!)
But this is more harmful than just letting a few well-off people pay with money instead of time. It could cheapen the entire institution and erode the thing that makes it uniquely valuable: its openness. The individuals who buy their way in are missing that civic component of Shakespeare in the Park. For them, a play outside is just another summer trifle.
What made all of the components matter that made Shakespeare in the Park successful in the first place was the audience: younger, less experienced, and from across the city and the nation. At the Delacorte, Shakespeare not only spoke to America but looked like it.
Read more from the original article here.