Free Night comes to Penobscot Theatre

Posted Oct. 08, 2008, at 6:53 p.m.
Last modified March 20, 2011, at 3:25 a.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Penobscot Theatre will join more than 600 theaters around the country for the Free Night of Theater program during its production of “State of the Union.”

According to Scott R.C. Levy, producing artistic director of Penobscot Theatre in Bangor, “We are proud to be the first theater in Maine to include the Free Night of Theater program in our repertoire of community outreach programs. It provides the opportunity for an even broader audience than we currently enjoy to be introduced to the wonderful work we present inside the historic Bangor Opera House.

“The ability to offer a substantial number of free tickets to our production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning classic comedy ‘State of the Union’ not only benefits the theater and the individuals who make use of this program, but the entire Bangor community,” he said.

Penobscot Theatre will offer 50 free tickets to each performance of “State of the Union” between Wednesday, Oct. 22, and Sunday, Oct. 26.

Performance times for the play are 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 22-23; 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 24; 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 25; and 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 26. Tickets are for sale for those performances as well. Ticket prices range from $10 to $40. Call the Penobscot Theatre box office at 942-3333 or visit www.penobscottheatre.org for information.

Theatre Communications Group announced the fourth Free Night of Theater program will open across the country on Thursday, Oct. 16, and run until Thursday, Oct. 30. The audience development program was designed to attract new patrons to live theater and give existing patrons access to venues with which they might not be familiar.

Theatergoers from coast to coast will be given the opportunity to attend performances presented by more than 600 theaters in more than 120 cities, completely free of charge.

Continuing the program’s tradition of national expansion, several communities across the country — including Bangor — have joined the 2008 program. Introduced as a three-city pilot program in 2005, the program was designed to raise general awareness of America’s not-for-profit theaters and attract new and nontraditional audiences. A complete list of participating cities and theaters is available at www.freenightoftheater.net.

“Since the campaign’s pilot year here three years ago, we have seen an extraordinary response from theater, audiences and the whole community,” said Brad Erickson, executive director of Theatre Bay Area in San Francisco and Free Night of Theater participant since the program’s inception in 2005. “The demand for live theater, when it’s made accessible to all, is overwhelming. We’re bringing in new audiences — young people, people of color, people from all walks of life — and the research tells us they are going back for more. Free Night of Theater has thrown the doors of our thea-ters open wide.”

According to 2007 program research gathered by Shugoll Research of Bethesda, Md., 91 percent of participants rated the program as “excellent to very good” and were “extremely satisfied” with the program overall.

Of those patrons who attended a theater they had never been to before, 41 percent returned to that theater and purchased a ticket, with 49 percent of those attendees buying a full-price ticket and 89 percent saying they were very likely to participate in Free Night again in 2008. For the full Shugoll Research report, e-mail Phillip Matthews at pmat-thews@tcg.org.

Free Night has a proven track record of attracting non-traditional theater audiences, including infrequent theater attendees, young people, the less educated and those with lower household incomes.

Within each category, 65 percent attended a theater they had never been to before, 28 percent were under 35, 21 percent had less than a college degree, 28 percent were nonwhite, and 35 percent had combined household incomes under $50,000.

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