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Springfield Theater Offers "Pay What You Will" Prices

A downtown Springfield theater is trying to keep theater-goers from digging too deep in their pockets. As the lights go down on the audience attending William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night Thursday evening, they will be seeing a play at a ticket price they have set for themselves. KSMU’s Nathan McVay traveled to the Swan Repertory’s downtown theater to learn more about the new program.

Reporter: "I’m standing here on the stage of the Skinny Improv where tonight the Swan Repertory Theatre Company will be performing the Twelfth Night. But when the actors come on stage they will be performing for an audience getting a discount. Not a 10 percent discount or even a discount of five dollars. They are paying what they want, even if it is just three dollars."

"'Pay-What-You-Will' Thursdays. It’s really, honestly what it means. If you only have three dollars, we will take three dollars. Even though our normal ticket prices are 14 and 16,” said Jeff Jenkins, the executive managing producer of the Swan Repertory Theatre company.

He says he came up with this idea back in December and he thought now was the perfect time to introduce it.

“We are trying to come up with ways to make theatre more accessible to people, where people feel they can come in and if they don’t have a lot of money or if they don’t have a lot of extra cash right now—spending cash—because everything is so tight with the recession,” he said.

Jenkins pointed out how theatre has historically served a role in times of economic distress dating back to the Great Depression. He says theatre provides an escape from these fearful times.

“We’ve got to rejuvenate ourselves, we gotta reinvent ourselves. Who we are as people, who we are as America. And I think theatre can help be a part of that because people can come watch a show and learn something, not about a historical thing but maybe an insight to who they are. So, I think it is very important,” he said.

Jenkins says the idea doesn’t just target high school or college students on tight budgets, but rather the general population.

The Theatre suggests a donation of nine dollars, but it will accept any amount.

When asked about the public’s response to the “Pay-What-You-Will” program, Jenkins said it's been one of gratitude.

“They are not like, you know, 'Oh thank you, here is my child, I will name them all after you.' But, you can tell, people go, you know, 'that is a great idea, and thank you because now I can see a show,'” he said.

The “Pay-What-You-Will” nights are this Thursday night and next Thursday night. Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night also runs at the theater’s Skinny Improv theatre this weekend and next. For KSMU News, I’m Nathan McVay.