BWW Blog: Michael Milligan of Off-Broadway's MERCY KILLERS - Passing the Hat
So, that was the beginning. I've continued to do "Pass the Hat" performances, although I also now work on a "fee" basis as well. There's really something magic about passing a hat around. I made a commitment that I'm going to do this show for a certain period of my life, even if it means eating beans and sleeping on people's couches. And some of the organizations I collaborate with can't come up with the cash, but they come up with an audience, often times an audience of people who might not otherwise go see a play- and those are the people I most want to perform for. But please don't feel sorry for me. If you knew how little money actors generally make doing a play, and you consider that if I can get 80 people a week to throw ten bucks in a hat, I'm actually making more that most actors in the theatre. And this model is going to allow me to do a ten day tour around West Virginia, which is very exciting, because those are the exact people for whom I wrote the play. This is part of the reason I'm so excited about doing the show Off Broadway with the Working Theater and Harold Clurman Lab Theater. The Working Theater's mission is the presentation of plays with working class themes FOR working class people. Which means the ticket prices are set for people on a budget. The HC Lab, reflecting the values of Harold Clurman and the Group Theater is deeply committed to a socially relevant Art that speaks to society as a whole, that should be an integral part of the whole community and not just the privileged pastime of the affluent. And I don't think this is pie in the sky stuff. If theater is going to survive and be relevant it's got to open the doors. And not in a patronizing way, like "oh yes, we will set aside 10 tickets a performance so that those less fortunate may attend." I think in addition to ticket prices being off putting, what is also off putting about the theater to those who are not in the affluent classes, is that the themes and content of plays has no relevance to the vast majority of people's lives.