“Taking Over” is taking a tour of Gotham — and exploring the possibility of a long-term outpost in the city that is its subject.
The latest multicharacter solo show from Danny Hoch (“Jails, Hospitals & Hip-Hop”) chronicles the fallout from the gentrification of New York neighborhoods, particularly Brooklyn hipster enclave Williamsburg.
The show is set for a run at Off Broadway’s Public Theater in November, but this month, the Public and the Hip-Hop Theater Fest (which Hoch founded in 2000) are co-presenting a series of free performances in the nabes most affected by gentrification, including Long Island City, the South Bronx (that’s SoBro, in the gentrifiers’ lexicon) and Williamsburg itself.
Whereas the Public run will likely play to auds made up in large part of the gentrifiers at whom “Taking Over” takes aim, the outer-borough auds are largely composed of neighborhood natives who find themselves sharing streets with an influx of upwardly mobile trend-followers.
Hoch, who last winter performed “Taking Over” at Berkeley Rep, says audience reaction in the Bronx and Queens has influenced the performance of some of the fictional characters he plays, especially in the case of a drunk, angry City U. of New York grad student whose family is getting kicked out of their apartment.
“He was seen as an antagonist outside of New York, and I had to kind of tone him down in my performance,” Hoch says. “In New York, he’s a hero.”
Helmed by Tony Taccone (who directed Sarah Jones‘ “Bridge & Tunnel,” another Gotham-centric solo show), “Taking Over” will head to Los Angeles following the five-week run at the Public that kicks off Nov. 7. But according to Hoch, the outer-borough perfs have set off talk of the production returning to the city for an open-ended engagement.
While the show’s 10 characters range from developers to natives, the writer-performer, who has lived in Williamsburg for 18 years, admits that “Taking Over” does take sides.
“My heart lies with New Yorkers who were born here and with immigrants,” he says. “I’ve been asked to gentrify my show so the traditional theater audience doesn’t feel alienated. But that’s not my kind of playwriting.”
Gotham legit orgs are starting to discover that sometimes, surprisingly, all it takes is “welcome” and “thank you” to turn a ticketbuyer into a regular customer.
The Broadway League, the trade association of commercial producers and presenters, is working to reap the benefits of hospitality through the recent launch of the Broadway Concierge, a Times Square ticketing center that aims to make choosing a show and purchasing tickets as consumer-friendly as possible.
A related loyalty program, Audience Rewards, has been set up to bring theatergoers back for repeat visits.
And on the nonprofit front, New York orgs — including the Roundabout, MCC, Second Stage and Playwrights Horizons — are participating for the first time in Theater Communication Group’s annual Free Night of Theater.
In the program, legit orgs offer 25% of the night’s ticket inventory free of charge in an effort to drum up new auds. (The national event is pegged to the official Free Night date of Oct. 16, although other perfs also are on offer.)
And since Free Night was inaugurated in 2005, what have theaters found to be the most effective tactic in convincing patrons to return and buy tickets? A curtain speech from a theater staffer, welcoming the newbies to the theatergoing family.
It’s so warm and fuzzy that cynical Gothamites might roll their eyes. But this year they may find it works all the same.