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By BTL Staff
Special promotion offers ‘gay days’ at local professional theaters
FARMINGTON – Get wild this May with The Wilde Carde, a new and innovative way for the LGBT community to sample the offerings at three of southeast Michigan’s professional theaters. It’s a program that – if it proves popular – will spread this summer and fall to include many – if not most – of the area’s professional theater companies.
“It’s no secret that the LGBT community has a close relationship with our state’s professional theater community,” said Susan Horowitz, co-publisher of Between The Lines and co-creator of The Wilde Carde. “Not only can we be found on the stage and in the executive offices, but we also support them financially with our ticket purchases and our cash donations. It’s a relationship that was strengthened several years back, first with the introduction of our weekly theater column, Curtain Calls, and then with our annual Wilde Awards, but that wasn’t enough. There was still more we could do to encourage our two communities to come together on a more frequent basis, and we think The Wilde Carde is the way to do it.”
In development for the past two years, The Wilde Carde is a free, unique promotional offering that provides discount tickets and other incentives to encourage the LGBT community to come together as a group and attend specially-selected performances at participating professional theaters. Interested theatergoers simply have to clip The Wilde Carde from the newspaper or print a copy from the newspaper’s Web site and present it at the theater’s box office on the designated night to obtain the discount. “It couldn’t be easier,” Horowitz said.
The concept, according to BTL Theater and Arts Editor and Wilde Carde co-creator Donald V. Calamia, is not only to get the community to attend shows together as a group, but also to entice them to attend theaters that might not otherwise be on their radar screen. “I’ve always found it curious that some theaters like Performance Network Theatre seem to have a large gay following, but I rarely see community members at others,” observed Calamia. “So one of our goals with The Wilde Carde is to tempt people to sample shows at theaters they’ve never been to before. I think once people become more aware of the diversity of shows and themes we have in the theater community, the more likely they’ll be to support them on a more regular basis.”
Only professional theaters are part of the program, Calamia noted, because The Wilde Carde is part of BTL’s continuing effort to support Governor Granholm’s Cool Cities initiative. “It’s the professional theaters that provide hundreds of jobs in the state, and without those jobs, our artists and executives would be forced to leave Michigan to find work. We’ve lost too many good people already, and we can’t afford to lose any more.”
The May Carde
Although the planned rollout of The Wilde Carde isn’t scheduled to take place until July, the co-creators felt the concept should first be thoroughly tested in a “real-world” environment. So with the goal of selecting the widest variety of shows across Metro Detroit, Calamia looked at the May theater schedule and approached Meadow Brook Theatre, Improv Inferno and Plowshares Theatre Company – all of which gladly agreed to participate.
“I wanted a musical, a drama and some improv,” Calamia said, “and I wanted one theater in Detroit, one in the suburbs and one in Ann Arbor. But at the same time, I wanted to include a few theaters that might not have a huge gay following. So these three seemed like a perfect fit.”
Meadow Brook Theatre in Rochester Hills was the first to come on board. “You know, there’s always been a gay subtext to the comic strip ‘Peanuts,’ so to make the musical ‘You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown’ on Friday, May 12 the inaugural Wilde Carde event was a no brainer,” Calamia said. “John Manfredi, the theater’s managing director, didn’t even hesitate when I approached him. And it was he who set the bar high by offering our readers a ‘buy one, get one free’ promotion.”
One phone call later and it was Dan Izzo of Ann Arbor’s Improv Inferno who came up with yet another tempting idea. “I’ve been teasing Dan for about a year now about The Wilde Carde, and given the success of a gay night he had there last year, including the Inferno in the test made total sense. Not only did he offer our readers half-off the regular ticket price for the Friday, May 19 performance of ‘Uncoupled,’ but also half-off their selection of Special Inferno Cocktails, such as their delicious Death by Chocolate-Tini. How could we pass up something like that?” Calamia laughed.
Including Detroit’s Plowshares Theatre Co. was especially important to Horowitz and Calamia. “Gary Anderson approached us a while back with an idea he had, called Out At Plowshares,” Horowitz recalled. “Having Plowshares involved in the test is a natural outgrowth of that earlier discussion.”
Coincidentally, Calamia said, the Plowshares offering comes at a time when the theater company is introducing a new direction for the company, “Studio 2g,” which is an initiative to showcase a new generation of talent and performance forms. “This year’s ‘Studio 2g’ effort is to produce staged readings of all 10 plays in August Wilson’s 20th Century Cycle. So for his Wilde Carde production, Gary chose ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ on Saturday, May 27. There should be interest in this show from our community, since Ma was bisexual and one of the characters in the play is Ma’s girlfriend.”
Readers interested in attending one, two or all three of The Wilde Card performances can do so by simply presenting The Wilde Card at the theater’s box office at the time of purchase. Each Wilde Carde ad entitles the presenter to two tickets at the promotional price. The Carde (BTL ad) MUST be presented at the time of purchase, however. “No Carde, no discount,” Horowitz emphasized.
Wilde Carde’s future
Should The Wilde Card prove successful next month, plans call for the program to be fully implemented this July beginning with Performance Network Theatre’s production of “I Am My Own Wife” starring Malcolm Tulip. Planet Ant Theatre in Hamtramck has special plans on the drawing board for July, as well.
“All of our professional theaters are invited to join our Wilde Card program for the upcoming 2006/07 season, and we’re encouraging each of them to come up with their own unique twists to set themselves apart from the pack,” Calamia said.
Professional theaters will soon receive information regarding The Wilde Carde program and how to participate. “In the meantime, they all know how to contact me,” Calamia chuckled.
If Disney World can have great success with its ‘gay days,’ so should our local theaters, Horowitz believes. “It’s a very easy and inexpensive way for our community to come together and have some fun with our allies in the theater community. We hope everyone participates, and that every seat sells out. I can dream, can’t I?”