I went online to buy tickets for Shooting Star, the new Steven Dietz play at the Zach Scott (or ZACH Theatre as it’s now apparently become) and had one those ‘bugger me’ moments when I looked at the prices for Friday night.
$34 a ticket, plus the $4.50 online booking fee, a processing fee of $5 and something spuriously called a ‘facility fee’ of $2. $46.50 in total. No wonder the theaters in town are struggling to fill seats (not that I necessarily know that they are, I just want to sound like an Austin Chronicle letter writer).
So am I in the right, or just getting old and miserly? When I was 20 I worked a season at the Pontin’s Holiday Camp at weston-super-mare. There’s no US equivalent to Pontins, it’d be like taking a Club Med and dumping it in Kentucky and staffing it with community service offenders. Nasty food, grotty entertainment and staff who warred with the punters. I worked behind the bar. At the start of the season we got a lot of pensioners, we called them the GOG’s, grumpy old gits, because they’d come up to the bar and complain about the price of beer and tell us how much cheaper they could get it at their social club back ‘ome. I just rolled my eyes, my friend Karen went slightly further and regularly told them to ‘bugger off back there then’. It took longer than expected for Karen to be fired due to the fact that we all swapped name badges so the complaints about bar staff were more evenly spread.
But I fear I’m turning into a GOG. The last couple of restaurants I’ve been to, I’ve been quite shocked by the prices for a not particularly spectacular meal. If we buy a bottle of wine for more than $12 it had better come with a guarantee of our classiness and ideally a mail-in rebate.
But the Zach Scott deal, or lack of, really pisses me off. After all it’s Austin theatre not sodding Broadway. I checked the prices for the other nights, wondering if they were increased for the weekend shows and discovered that every night has a different price. So on Wednesday’s, tickets are $20, increasing to $39 on a Saturday, which with all the added stuff would make them over $50 a piece.
Why such variable pricing? Why not have a pay-what-you-can night like other theatres and then charge a set price for the others. I don’t see how they can justify charging an extra $20 for the same performance. But then I realised that it probably isn’t the same performance. Perhaps on Wednesdays you really do get what you pay for. A 70 percent performance for the cheapskates who wouldn’t pay full weekend prices. Perhaps the actors will drop a few lines, miss a couple of cues and flip off the audience at the curtain call. Slightly above the standard of a Pontin’s all-star variety show.
I’m going on Wednesday to find out. And I’ll be making full of use of the ‘facilities’, to be sure that my $2 is being spent wisely. In fact I’ll probably say that quite loudly in the lobby so others can hear my pithy wit. Right after I’ve complained about the programs being a bit flimsy and cheap, the unnecessary truncation of Zach Scott and my horror at what they charge for bottled water and snacks. It’s all quite ridiculous. Thank god I’ll have packed my Werther’s Originals.