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Into the final stretch on Inishmore

We have 5 performances left of The Lieutenant of Inishmore, and that’s all she wrote ladies and gentlemen. Almost a year and a half of preparation, countless meetings, a month of regular rehearsals, two weeks of tech and now three weeks into the run.

How am I feeling right now? Mixed if I can be real about it.

This was a monumental, Herculean project to pull off. The props, the effects, the timing, the commitment and stakes needed from the actors. I’m happy with the work that’s being turned in. I’m not sure I’ve rode people harder, and I certainly don’t think any cast and crew has ever worked so doggedly before to get things right. You put in this much work on anything, and you want to see it last for a while. More than that really you want it to be seen and appreciated.

We’ve had more press on this show than I think we’ve ever had for a single show. Several preview stories on the behind the scenes stuff – big, full paged jobbies. A few appearances on TV – including the NBC affiliate’s nightly news. Three great reviews and even the very first cover story we’ve had – this week’s Creative Loafing. It’s been all over the place for as while now. It’s a writer we’ve a history with and who scored huge with his previous two Jobsite stagings – The Pillowman and The Beauty Queen of Leenane.

We’ve had 5 performances completely sell out. We’ve had sensational crowds who’ve given us standing ovations. We’ve also had some pretty small audiences (and the smaller an audience is the less energy they have and the more self-conscious they are about laughing or responding), and have been worried about sales more often than not for the better part of two weeks. We’re still desperately trying to cover our expenses so that we don’t lose money on this one. We banked on having a similar response as we’ve had to similar shows – McDonagh’s and beyond.

Seems all the great reviews in the world, all the news coverage, covers of tabloids, great word of mouth or anything isn’t going to necessarily make people respond and go out and buy a ticket. I’m hearing a lot of people talking about coming, and I’m at the point of being not sure if they are just politely lying to me as to spare my feelings or sincere and just slack when it comes to actually making the plan to come. In either event it’s a maddening feeling. Everyone’s talking and hardly anyone is reacting.

I was talking to a few in the cast last night about my hunch that the difference with a show like this and Picasso at the Lapin Agile is that Picasso appealed to an older, more stable audience. Those people make plans and don’t mind buying tickets in advance. Inishmore in general has appealed to a much younger crowd (though I think the show is pretty ageless – 20 or 60, it’s hilarious and worth seeing) and we’re just not seeing them come out the way we hoped.

It’s a bit of a hard pill to swallow, and a complete 180 of what we just went through in January. We hardly had to do anything for Picasso, and it was our greatest success to date.

So, why am I telling you all this? On one hand if I’m going to use this space to brag on about successes and tout the sellouts and the financial records, I should also be equally as honest when things aren’t going the way we hoped. And common perception right now due to the coverage is that we must be selling out every night, which we wish was the case, but …

And of course there’s another reason – there’s still time for us to do something about it. There’s still 5 shows and an absurd amount of inventory for them. Today at 4pm, next Thu. – Sat. at 8pm and Sun. at 4pm.

We can still not only break even on this titan budget, but we might be able to get a little ahead. The only way that can happen though is if things change. If sales pick up. If people actually make plans and buy a ticket.

We have 3 people helping us on this show that, as it stands, won’t make a dime (our two backstage assistants and my assistant director). I won’t even go into all the hours they spend in the theater and how hard they work. They knew it was potentially a volunteer gig in the beginning, but that we’d work on paying them first once the show covered it’s costs. We’re still a bit away from that. That pains me deeply, time is valuable and no one should be working for free. Here we are doing everything we can to get people paid more and more from show to show, and I might have these three who ended up busting their tails for no other reason than their dedication to this company.

So, all I can really do here is be honest and make a direct ask. Stress how important this is to us. Stress how awesome this show is and how much of a good time you’re going to have seeing it.

No one wants to go to the theater out of guilt, and that’s not what I’m about. We’re not asking for sympathy because we’re sure this is worthy. We’re not asking for someone to come in and awkwardly sit through two hours of pre-WWII Icelandic expressionism, where Gunta dips fish into buckets of paint and smacks his daughter wearing a white dress to tell his version of the story of how the world began and how it relates to the psyche of farm workers.

Sidenote: two teenaged boys saw the show last night, and the mother who was with them said something to the effect of “See, and you said you didn’t like theater” as they lined up, wide-eyed to look at the carnage on stage close up after the show. I smiled and leaned over and said “I don’t like theater either. Nor does Martin McDonagh.” This ain’t your grandma’s play …

This is a *fan-effing-tastic* show. Depsite the gore and guns it’s a great, laugh-out-loud story. It’s worthy of the attention and praise it’s been getting (if I may say so myself).

It’s also worthy of a lot more people seeing it before it’s gone.

If you’ve been intending to come out and just haven’t for whatever reason, can I twist your arm into picking a ticket up when you’re finished reading this? If you’ve seen the show already, could you maybe send a note to your friends who’d enjoy the show or just even update your Facebook/Twitter status with a message about the show? Anything you can do would be appreciated. We’re not even sure where else to turn at this point.

We frankly need these advanced sales or we might end up having to cancel some of next week’s shows, which would be a crying shame.

It shouldn’t be this hard sometimes to get people to come out and spend two hours watching high-energy, high-quality awesome theater. Especially not a show like this with so many laughs, so much blood, such great talent.

If you are a fan of our work, if you’re a fan of McDonagh’s work (The Beauty Queen of Leenane, The Pillowman, In Bruges), if you’re a fan of the work of anyone in this cast you really owe it to yourself to get out and see it.

I know times are tough, and I know money is tight. Keep in mind we always have $10 rush tickets available for students, seniors and members of the military as of 90 minutes before any show by using a valid ID and cash at the TBPAC Ticket Office window. We also have a final show special for the Sun., 4/12 4pm show – use promo code THOMAS and get your tickets for half off – just $12.25. To buy those specially priced tickets you can call 813.229.STAR or go to TBPAC.ORG. Discounts are not valid on prior sales or in conjunction with any other offer and are subject to availability.

If even that’s not going to work for you and you are really serious about wanting to see the show, tell you what, go ahead and write me and we’ll see what we can work out. It’s just more important to me right now that people see the show. That’s why we’re doing this, after all.

So, whaddya say, are we going to see you at the theater?



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4 Responses

  1. As awesome as the show is, and it IS an awesome show, I think a lot of people have cut out their entertainment budgets all together. With unemployment at a very high level and many people unable to find work (or working less/making less money), I fear for any “non-essential” industries, including productions like this.

    I’m going to try to get out there this weekend with my wife so she can see the greatness of the production that I saw. It’s all a matter of scheduling right now.

  2. Thanks, Denis.

    I am sure there is some truth to what you’re saying, and I know things are bad.

    From what I am hearing – and I am not at all trying to point fingers – our bad luck seems to be more slack-oriented than cash-oriented. We’ve made tickets available for as cheap as $5, and it hasn’t seemed to necessarily impact sales.

    We’re keeping our heads help high. We’re all very proud of this show. To this point, as recently as January, we’ve in no way really been impacted by the economy. Quite the opposite actually, our numbers have been higher than ever.

    Maybe some of it is us getting spoiled and our luck running out, and that’s more than fair.

    We will persevere, and we will continue to bring the same cutting-edge, quality theater.

    One show is certainly not the end of the world if we don’t do the business we needed to, it’s just more disheartening than anything.

    Again, thanks so much for the support.

  3. I can understand that. Any big undertaking, particularly one that obviously has an emulsion of people doing top notch work, has to have some kind of payout. Even if you don’t profit, the very act of not breaking even would be disheartening.

    I think it’s crazy that more people haven’t come out. You’ve been getting lots of good press. Everyone I know who has seen it has loved it. It just doesn’t add up that people aren’t coming in droves.

    Do you have numbers yet on how many tickets you’ve sold all together? How many more tickets do you need to sell to “break even”?

  4. We’re not horribly far off. If we could sell even just 65 more tickets at full price we’d hit our mark. If we’re selling heavily discounted tickets we’ll obviously need to sell a lot more.

    Even at that, we’d still have had about 500 less see this show than just saw our January show, Picasso at the Lapin Agile. That’s a huge gap.

    Like I said, some of it is I’m sure Picasso appealed to the older crowd more than Inishmore does and perhaps some of it is also the economy catching up with us finally.

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