Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Broadway Should Go Green
By Casey Bell
Broadway just announced another date for reopening its doors, May 2021. You may ask why are they are the only business that has yet to reopen? It is very simple.
Unlike other businesses, theaters are basically the only business that determines prices according to the seating capacity. In simple math, if a theater seats 1000 people and the show produced costs $200,000 in order to break even, they have to charge $2000 ($200,000/1000) per person. Or have different prices per section that will cause them to get their money back.
But you don’t just want to get your money back you want to make a profit. This is why the orchestra seating is so expensive. They are making their money back.
So, if they reopen and have everyone seated six feet apart, they have just now limited their seating capacity to about 400-800 people. So now they have to raise their prices to break even or make a profit. So, they are trying their best to wait until they can reopen without the six feet apart regulation.
But, is there something else they can do. If you used the money from costumes, sets, hair, and makeup alone, you can easily buy a new car or home. Then you add in sound, lights, marketing, advertising, paying the staff, and that doesn’t even cover the heat, air, and gas of the actual theater.
So, why by now has not Broadway heeded to the “Green Way” of living?
Is there a more effective and sufficient way to create great theater without spending an arm and a leg? I remember reading an article in a theater magazine (Sorry cannot remember the details, it might have been American Theater). A woman (sorry I cannot recall her name) designed a set for a Broadway show (don’t remember that either) and she spent well over $3,000,000 (or was it $30,000,000).
Much to her dismay, the show closed not long after previews. She was devastated that she spent so much on a show that many people didn’t get to see. She was then inspired to only use recycled goods for her sets from then on out.
She realized the amount she spends is not what matters, it is the quality of her creativity.
Not only could Broadway reopen, but they could probably lower prices if they did not spend so much on creating the show. There are always ways you can cut cost, but if you don’t think, you won’t do. And the main reason Broadway should go green and reduce, reuse, and recycle, is for obvious reasons, no one (not even psychics) can predict how long or short a run of a show will be. Many people ridiculed Cats. No one expected it to last as long as it did. And no one (not even a psychic knew) was warned about this pandemic. There are so many players in the production of a show (producers, creative team, talent, lawyers, office staff, etc.), I am sure with much creative thought (well, isn’t theater supposed to be creative) every team can find ways to cut costs significantly so prices do not have to be so sky high and you can produce a show and make your money back whether there are 500 or 1000 people in the audience.
Yes, we need the show to look good, but theater makers keep forgetting the original purpose of theater is to leave the audience with a message.
Make the message more important then the glitz and glam of the production. You shouldn’t just want them to say how great everything looked, you really want them to leave discussing the message more then the talent. So, I hope theater makers everywhere who read this become encourage to think outside the money box and find cost effective, maybe even free ways to create an amazing show without spending a broken leg (break a leg, get it…I know not funny). It’s time for Broadway and the rest of the theater world to go green and reduce, reuse, recycle.