Doubling up Off Broadway

Shows share stages to save on costs

Timesharing is turning into a trend Off Broadway.

Solo show “Dai (enough)” and tuner spoof “Forbidden Broadway,” for instance, both play full skeds of seven or eight perfs per week — and they both do it on the same stage at the 47th Street Theater. Showtimes are staggered, with “Dai” curtain at 6:30 p.m. and “Forbidden” at 8:15 p.m. on a typical evening.

The two offerings are following an example set by prior productions that found a way to make the tough economics of Off Broadway more bearable by sharing a venue. Two spaces at legit multiplex New World Stages currently host two shows each, with “Altar Boyz” and “Naked Boys Singing” both on Stage 4 and “Make Me a Song” and “My First Time” trading off on Stage 5.

The idea first surfaced around two years ago when “Naked Boys” and now-closed “The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!)” shared a single stage between them, with “Naked Boys” playing three perfs a week and “Musical” doing a full eight.

“The driving force was helping the shows last longer,” says New World Stages exec director Beverley D. Mac Keen. “We began thinking, how do we sustain eight shows a week? And then we thought, why do we have to?”

A timeshare involves some logistical challenges, like a set that moves easily or can otherwise accommodate the staging needs of another show, and an adaptable lighting design.

But “Dai” producer Jonathan Pollard — who knows a thing or two about Off Broadway longevity as the producer of 12-year-old tuner “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” — thinks it’s worth it. He estimates a timeshare can reduce venue-oriented costs by 30% or more.

For landlords, such a deal helps maximize the potential of pricey Gotham real estate. And audiences get a new selection of nontraditional curtain times, which surveys indicate are a draw.

“I believe very strongly that it’s the future for the Off Broadway market,” Pollard says.

For two small-scale productions with modest physical needs, the switchoff can run surprisingly smoothly. Pollard says stage crews have shortened the set transitions between “Dai,” which takes place in a Tel Aviv cafe, and “Forbidden,” a piano-and-tinsel-curtain musical, down to a swift seven minutes.

 

Gotham’s cause celeb

Gotham legit is getting into cause marketing.

Cause marketing, for those unfamiliar with the buzzword-y term, is what happens when a nonprofit org — often a charity — pairs with a for-profit biz or corporation to give a boost to both, as with the ubiquitous Product (Red) campaignbenefiting the AIDS epidemic in Africa, or the annual Yoplait Save Lids to Save Lives fund-raiser to fight breast cancer.

Or Givenik, the new initiative from producer-landlords Jujamcyn Theaters that pairs Broadway sales and charity donations.

Still in its early soft-launch phase, Givenik has begun gathering a long list of charities (currently ranging from Human Rights Campaign to the PS 183 PTA) to which ticketbuyers can contribute a portion of their ticket price when they buy ducats through the Givenik website. Before you make a purchase, the site tells you how much you’re paying for a ticket, how much you’re saving (if it’s a discounted ticket) and how much of that money the charity org will receive.

Unlike, say, donation solicitations for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS during a curtain call, Givenik aims to encourage actual Broadway and Off Broadway ticket sales by linking them directly to a cause.

“It used to be, you’re doing ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’ you connect to some temples, they buy some tickets, and that’s the end of it,” says Jujamcyn veep Jordan Roth, who spearheaded the program. “Instead, this is an ongoing relationship.”

Givenik gets a commission from the shows involved — right now about 25 Rialto offerings, plus some Off Broadway fare — and handles all the back-end accounting.

By pairing two things that appeal to a consumer, Roth says, he hopes to sway serial donators into buying a Broadway ticket, or tip Rialto regulars into buying another ducat for a good cause.

“Both the product and the not-for-profit emerge not only with additional money but also additional good will,” Roth adds.

Charity might even be just the thing to get on-the-fence ticketbuyers to splurge on premium prices. A 5% donation is worth a lot more for a $350 top-tier ticket than a $75 ducat for the front mezzanine.

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