Lives Were Around Me hikes ticket prices to cover costs

Battery opera’s artistic producer David McIntosh hopes that a 10-fold increase in ticket prices for an upcoming theatrical production will help foster a dialogue around the real costs of the B.C. Liberals’ funding cuts to the arts.

At the beginning of this year, tickets for the original 40-show run of McIntosh’s Lives Were Around Me, a site-specific work dealing with the themes of history and culture in a once-vibrant port city, cost audience members $26 plus service charges. To cover the costs of the remount, battery opera is charging $267.67 per ticket. (According to battery opera’s Web site, those who want to see that show but can’t afford those tickets can pay by donation.)“I thought it would be interesting to reflect the actual cost of a production in the ticket price and see where that lands,” McIntosh told the Straight. “I’m lucky in this show because it’s actually very cheap because it’s a remount, and I don’t actually need a theatre or anything.” McIntosh forecasts battery opera will lose “about 20 to 30 percent” of its 2008-09 budget due to provincial cuts to gaming grants.

Beginning at the Alibi Room, Lives takes three audience members on a tour through the Downtown Eastside, guided by one of three narrators (Adrienne Wong, Paul Ternes, and Aleister Murphy). Five performances take place each night on November 17 and November 24, and December 1, 8, and 15.

“For me, the main question is, ”˜What is the purpose of public funding for the arts?’” said McIntosh. “This is a way to reframe that discussion.”


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Chris Chang

Oct 16, 2009 at 10:09am

The purpose is clear: to subsidize costs to keep ticket prices more affordable. I find this stunt a bit disingenuous. Why is the cost over 200 per person? I mean really they could add more shows or something. This kind of stunt just shows that artists living off the dole have lost touch with reality. I'm tired of special interest groups crying for more money, what entitles an artist to receive public funding at all? Even at tickets costing $26 a lot of people who have to work at real jobs can't afford that so how can artists claim that they recurve public funds to perform a public good. Why didn't they make shows free when they were recieving all these subsidies? I'm sorry. In the world the rest of us live in, we have this thing called the freemarket and if people don't like the widgets I make then I'm out of a job. That's the real world. When we have enough beds in hospitals and less lineups at emergency wards, maybe then we can see if there's any money left to help the arts. These artists asking for money seem out of touch with our present day tough economic realities.

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Grumpy Old Taxpayer

Oct 16, 2009 at 1:27pm

What is the purpose of public funding for the arts? America has artists but does not have our generous funding. And when our artists become internationally successful because of our taxpayer investments, what do they do to support the Arts? The founder of Cirque Du Soleil got government money for years and ended up making millions in America. What has he done to give back, he just spent over 20 million to go for a ride in space.
If the public felt ownership over art then there would be a real outcry. But the reality is, a lot of these arts groups aren't interested in entertaining the public. Some of these artists are elitists. They've looked down on average people for years. Now they want our money. But we have a 3 billion dollar deficit. That means we have no money. No money, no support. There's no way to get around that. Maybe put on shows people want to see. Maybe then things will change.

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Colin Miles

Oct 21, 2009 at 12:01pm

Bravo to Battery Opera for this piece of theatre. What a shame the discussion has avoided the issues raised.
The majority of Canadians in poll after poll value the arts and the role of government in funding the arts. This holds true for all modern democracies. Canadian federal, provincial and municipal governments know they get value for their investments in the arts. The BC government’s own studies show they receive between $1.05 and $1.36 back in provincial tax revenues for every dollar invested. The City of Vancouver studies show the impact on the economy is more than 12-fold. That is why every other administration in Canada is increasing funding to the arts in this time of recession. They know that the arts contribute to a healthy society and that all citizens need access to quality affordable artistic experience. This is not a court in the renaissance when only the aristocracy and their friends could afford to participate. This is a modern democracy in which artists and audiences are in dialogue.
They also know that according to StasCan, more Canadians attend professional arts events than professional sports events. Believe it or not, the percentages are 42% vs 31%. If government support and philanthropic giving were as generous to the arts in BC as it is for example in Washington DC where all museums are free to the public, ticket prices would be cheaper for BC’s museums, art galleries, theatres and concert halls.
Incidentally, the federal government spends less per capita on arts and culture in BC than in any other province and philanthropic giving in BC lags behind the rest of the country. When ticket and entrance prices are low, thanks can be given to artists who generally work below the poverty level, efficient staff and armies of volunteers. Arts organizations work tirelessly to raise revenues through donations, endowments, sales and applying for grants. Canada has a mixed economy and government funding is part of the mix for every sector of the economy. (By the way , the arts and culture sector in BC is worth $5.2 billion and employs 80,000 people. )

As John Maynard Keynes, showed the arts are primary creators of wealth. It is time to stop drinking the koolaid doled out by the priests of free market religion and pay attention to public good. This entails learning about the arts and culture as an essential part of civilization.
A first step would be to demand of our MLAs that they follow their own advice.

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