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July 13, 2009

Rushing 12 Nights in Advance: The State of the Rush

by Jesse North

I love Anne Hathaway. Like, love her. So when I heard she was doing Shakespeare in the Park’s Twelfth Night this summer with Raul Esparza, my other favorite actor, I couldn’t contain my excitement. In fact, I tweeted on April 15 “Raul Esparza has been cast in Twelfth Night, which is already starring Anne Hathaway. I’m getting in line NOW!” Little did I know I should have followed through with that tweet.

On Sunday, I was shut out from getting tickets to the performance. Unfortunately, it was the production’s final show. I know, I should have planned to do the famed Central Park rush earlier in the run, but due to scheduling conflicts, this is the way it worked out. But I took precautions. I arrived at 5:45 a.m.—a time I thought might even be over ambitious. But as the eternally long line of ticket hopefuls moved from Central Park West into the park (Central Park is technically not open to the public before 6 a.m.), line monitors of the Public Theater cut off the line when it reached a certain point, allowing no one else to join. There were already more people than there were tickets available, they said. After asking people who just made the cut off what time they arrived, I learned that on this particular day, unless you arrived at 4 a.m., you were out of luck. 4 a.m.! Even the people who were on the tail end of the line weren’t safe. Far from it, actually. The line attendant told them, “Your chances of getting tickets are pretty close to zero. Well, they are zero. But you can wait on line for standby tickets, which aren’t distributed until 8 p.m. and try your luck at that.” How comforting.

I walked out of Central Park, tail between my legs, with my hopes dashed of ever seeing Anne and Raul lock lips.

But in addition to that thought, it also occurred to me how inaccessible this rush was. True, I’m a young guy who could have camped out all night for a ticket if I had gotten off my high-maintenance rear. But what about older people (and I’m not even talking about senior citizens) who wanted to see this performance? My mom couldn’t (and wouldn’t) sit on line from midnight to 1 p.m. the next day for a ticket. But she would wait on a line from say about 8 a.m.

According to the web site, “The Public Theater is dedicated to achieving artistic excellence while developing an American theater that is accessible and relevant to all people.” The only people this line became accessible to were young theatergoers with time to spend on the street.

This insanity of camping out for tickets is extreme. One woman I spoke to said she was on line at 9:30 p.m. the night before (and she was not at the front). As it is, “rush” policies mean “day of” the performance. The problem is some rushers set the bar so high that rushing eventually becomes nearly impossible.

What do you think, Stage Rushers? Are rushes becoming impossible endeavors? Do you feel this is unfair to people who can’t give up their entire day or sleep on the street? Was this an isolated incident, due to the fact that it was Twelfth Night‘s final performance? Or am I just sour grapes because I didn’t get tickets? Sound off in the comments below!

Play: Supposedly fantastic / Rush: Epic fail

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