Portland, Theatre, and “Radical Hospitality”

I recently had a great trip to Portland, which I will summarize like this:

  • Clinton neighborhood – fantastic! I used AirBnB and got to stay in this great neighborhood, which I actually prefer to NW.
  • Chocolate shops – Cacao and Moonstruck Chocolate. Great drinking chocolate and many exquisite options for purchase (although I didn`t).
  • Restaurants – La Panza (New Mexican), Bete-Lukas (Ethiopian), Karam (Lebanese)
  • Conference – LavaCon – Many great insights by lots of smart, engaging people.
  • Theatre – Saw “Sans Merci”, a production by Badass Theatre Company. Wonderfully and sensitively done.
  • Music – Bassouke Kouyaté, a Malian musician playing along with his family (wife, two sons, and brother). He specializes in the traditional ngoni. Just a fantastic show. At the lovely Alberta Rose Theatre too.

Badass Theatre Company’s founder, Antonio Sonera, introduced the theatre before the show began. He explained the theatre`s concept of “Radical Hospitality”`. Essentially, this amounts to finding ways to ensure that people who do not have a lot of money or indeed no money can still see theatre. There are $10 seats for people under 35 and for artists, reserved free seats for those who need them. The ticket price is capped at $20. The guiding principle is that cost should not be a barrier to anyone attending theatre.

In Vancouver, BC (to distinguish from the `Vancouver` right near Portland), no theatre has quite such a generous policy, but various similar options abound. The Firehall Arts Centre has pay-what-you-can options for various Wednesday matinees, many theatre productions have at least one pay-what-you-can night, preview nights are often half-price or even free, discounts are sometimes offered on Facebook or Twitter, Tickets Tonight often offers half-price tickets, and so on. Many theatre productions often need volunteers to do things like ushering, and these volunteers get free tickets. It`s true that it`s not easy to get a cheap ticket to a show like `Wicked`, for example, but you can enjoy any number of locally produced shows for a very reasonable price with some investigation and work. Of course, just about every theatre production company in town just about can greatly benefit from full-paying theatre goers and from donations (my impression is that most productions require a donation or a grant or both to ever get off the ground in the first place), So, if you can, introduce your friends to theatre and consider theatre tickets as a very environmental gift that will not take up precious space in anyone`s cramped apartment.

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