The spacious building [ACT's downtown home] houses four different stages. But ACT doesn't have enough money to produce plays on more than one stage at a time. [Carlo Scandiuzzi, ACT's Executive Director] says the obvious move was to invite other local arts groups to share the space.
Scandiuzzi: "What was perceived in the community as an albatross turned out to be the best asset we can have. Without the building, we couldn't do what we're doing. We could not do the programming that we're doing."
ACT has teamed up with everyone from dancers and musicians to smaller theater companies. It also started a new works series. Those initiatives helped the company increase artistic offerings from 12 shows in 2006 to 45 last year. Adding so many performances freed up ACT to try something new on the business side of the operation. In addition to its traditional season subscriptions and individual ticket sales, ACT launched a membership program. For $25 a month, members can see anything at ACT, as often as they like.
Scandiuzzi: "Like a gym membership. What it does, it appeals to a younger constituency that wants flexibility, doesn't want to be tied to let's say, I have to be here every other month. It frees them, they can call the day before, see a play, a dance, whatever."
It's like an all–you–can–eat art buffet. 350 people have become members since July 2009, when the program started. The company would like to bring in a total of 1,000 members by the end of 2010.Yes, it means they're basically renting out the space a lot more, increasing turnover but also potentially letting go of responsibility and quality control over what performs there...but it also means they're making the venue into a performance "destination."
You can listen to the whole KUOW radio piece here. (hat tip: Artful Manager)
"Gym membership" model or not, the key indeed is combining convenience, flexibility, affordability, and, of course, value. Audiences can be pretty forgiving on at least one of those elements if the other three are satisfied.
Problem for NYC nonprofits is: how many of them, as they exist now, could promise three of those four things? (I imagine all you can eat at the Roundabout would be like a binge at Applebees: you're eating tons of stuff that looks like good food, but somehow still leaves you unsatisfied, sick, and poor.)