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Why I No Longer Give Big Theaters My $$$



I will be the first to admit I have become generally unenthused, uninspired, and a little jaded about this theater town. After living here for roughly eight years, I don't plan to stay in Philadelphia for much longer. It’s been incredibly disheartening to try and make it in this town, and I know I am not the only young person who feels that way. With that said, I am continually fueled and inspired by the volume of brilliant, incredible work happening; it just doesn't seem to be happening on the big stages the Philadelphia theatre community – audiences, critics, and companies alike - has come to glorify.


I am not here to condemn Philadelphia theater. Most things I see are good - entertaining, safe, sometimes boring – you know, good. Sometimes they are pretentious, or boisterously “woke”, but mostly what I see on the Philadelphia stage is solid, good work.


And I recently decided that I am going to stop paying for them.


Money is tight when you are a freelance artist in Philadelphia. And your dollar can go a long way depending on whose pocket it’s going in. The young actor, with the exception of a few, really has no place in this town as audience members or in larger companies, and many of my peers have adapted to that reality by making their own work. Actors ambitious to carve out a space for themselves become artists via living rooms, bars, and coffee shops.


$15 will benefit these young artists more than a company that is already well-supported without you. Give it to your friends making new theater in the bar down the street, or that person you always see at auditions trying something out in SoLow Fest. Chances are, that $15 is going to go directly into the pocket of an artist, who’s hustling as hard as you, as well as the pockets of the artists who helped make that thing happen.


Big theaters don’t need my $15. They rely on huge grants, wealthy families, and old white subscribers. Theaters that continue to produce safe, risk-free, egocentric theater are not investing in me.


So, why would I pay to see theater that I can probably see for free via connection, or volunteering when artists like me are actually benefiting from my support?


I dare to say most of the artists living on the fringes of the Philadelphia theater scene are thriving in exciting new territories that I'm not sure the Barrymore’s would be able to comprehend. I personally made a commitment to investing the little money I have into new work, and in the people who are talented and believe in themselves enough to make something in the face of rejection.


Regardless of how problematic or “not good” these works may be received, I am rarely disappointed in the new work I see. Mostly because I am often introduced to new people, new stories, and subversive story-telling. I invite you all to check out SoLow Fest happening June 16 – 25 where new and upcoming work is born. And be sure to throw some $$$ in that jar at the door.





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Francesca Piccioni

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