Pasadena Playhouse: How Not To Treat Subscribers

The LA Times Culture Monster Blog (lat_cultrmnstr) just published an article with an update on the Pasadena Playhouse. Needless to say, it does not leave me—a 20 year subscriber—with a good taste in my mouth.

A few select quotes and responses:

Meanwhile, the Playhouse on Monday sent its subscribers an e-mail message thanking them for “your patience as we continue to seek solutions to the financial difficulties.” The message added that “we are pleased to say that we have new optimism in our prospects.”

Hmmm, we’re long-time subscribers, and I’ve communicated with both the Playhouse and with Sheldon Epps directly via email. I never received such an email.

Eich said some subscribers have demanded their money back, “but when we explain the process we’re in, they’re OK. Generally, they’ve been reasonable. I understand their anger. We’ve appealed for subscribers’ patience, and so far, so good.”

All I asked for was a donation letter, so I can deduct the lost money from my taxes. I was told they couldn’t give us a donation letter yet on the advice of their lawyers.

If the Playhouse does declare bankruptcy, subscribers would have the right to file claims as creditors with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, in hopes of getting back at least part of what they paid for their tickets.

Realistically, how many subscribers would do this, and how many would likely see anything. Donation letters cost under a dollar, and could get money back into subscribers hands, without the Playhouse having to pay anything, and with no legal fees.

Meanwhile, Eich said, other theater companies have proposed plans to honor the subscriptions if the Playhouse can’t. Those offers are “generous,” he said, but at this point Playhouse leaders still aim to get the theater running again and present the shows subscribers paid for.

Translation: Instead of creating goodwill for theatre in Los Angeles, and keeping your patrons attending theatre, you’ll rather leave them in the cold while you sort things out. These offers cost the Playhouse nothing, but make their patrons feel cared about.

“It’s so important to the organization, and the arts in Los Angeles, that subscribers be taken care of, that people don’t have a bad taste in their mouth,” Eich said.

Alas, reading this article, I’ve now got that bad taste.

Earlier today, Rick Culbertson in the “Thoughts from an LA Theatre Producer” blog (latheatreprod) wrote about the different between good and bad theatre, and between quality and cheap theatre. Quality, where they spend a lot of money on sets and costumes, isn’t necessarily good theatre, and cheap theatre (such as many of the 99-seat plan theatres) doesn’t equate to bad theatre. This situation with the Pasadena Playhouse has me seriously thinking about this dichotomy, and I’d rather my subscription dollars go to support good theatre (such as Repertory East Playhouse or Cabrillo Music Theatre) than the supposed “quality” theatre. I think I’ll explore subscriptions at places like Havok, the Blank, West Coast Ensemble, InterACT, or the Colony when they come around. For “quality” theatre, I think I’ll stick with Goldstar, LAStageTix, or Hottix.