Emerging theater company’s priceless performances take the spotlight

By Molly Walsh

You can’t put a price on a great performance—especially with  the Broken Nose Theatre company.

The company was recently awarded the 2018 Broadway in Chicago Emerging Theatre Award for its pay-what-you-can ticketing model, which is designed to make performances more accessible to all  audiences, regardless of their ability to pay, according to Director of Programming Spenser Davis.

The Emerging Theatre Award was created by Broadway in Chicago in 2007 to support local and newer companies with potential, according to Executive Director of Marketing for BIC Ashlee Harris.

“[Recipient theaters] have to be less than 10 years old and more than three years old,” Harris said. “[They must] have demonstrated artistic excellence, fiscal responsibility, community leadership and the potential for growth in the future.”

Broken Nose Artistic Director Elise Marie Davis said winning the award was a great recognition because it was voted on by peers.

“One of the things I felt was positive about us being the ones receiving the award was a continued push towards economic accessibility,” Elise said. “One big thing the community at large is continuing to talk about is inclusion on a socioeconomic sector. It’s something that is really hard to balance. You need money coming in to produce the work going out.”

Spenser is also the playwright and co-director of the first show of the current season, “Plainclothes.” The show is a workplace comedy focusing on a retail store during the holidays and the commercialism in society. It runs through Dec. 15 at The Den Theatre, 1331 N. Milwaukee Ave.

“What does a pay-what-you-can organization say about presenting a story about folks who can’t afford things during the holidays?” Spenser asked. “Where are the ironies going to be between those two, and what are folks going to be thinking about as they leave the theater?”

Elise will also be performing in the show as Syd, a new member to the fictitious company’s security team who desperately wants to become a police officer. Although mostly a comedy, “Plainclothes” discusses inclusivity and diversity by showing racial profiling and stereotypes throughout the play’s plot, she added.

As the recipient of the award, Broken Nose Theatre receives $5,000, an advertising package to help promote the company and a meeting with BIC’s marketing team to discuss goals and plans  for the future of the theater company, Harris said.

“We never wanted a ticket price to be the barrier that would keep somebody from seeing one of our shows,” Spenser said. “An audience is taking a risk every time they buy a ticket to a show they’ve never heard of. They don’t know what they’re in for. [This pricing method] is our way of rewarding them for taking that risk.”

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