Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Huntington's less than perfect pitch

Last night I received a call from a very pleasant young woman representing Boston's Huntington Theatre Company. She noted that I'd attended a performance of Fences and asked what I thought. I told her I really enjoyed it.

She said that was great and then proceeded to inform me that the production was going to Broadway, with only one cast change as far as she knew - the addition of Denzel Washington. She encouraged me to try and see the play again in New York.

Then she started to make a pitch for a donation. (Not to finance the "Broadway transfer," which would have been cool, but for the Huntington's very worthy education program.)

I once spent a couple of months selling subscriptions to The Boston Globe over the phone. (Not very successfully, I might add.) I know how hard it is, so I don't blame this person. Maybe she works on commission and isn't a theatre fan and doesn't even live in Massachusetts.

But I haven't seen the Huntington mentioned in association with the Broadway revival that begins previews April 14 at the Cort Theatre. As far as I know, this isn't a transfer but an entirely separate production with different producers and cast, headed by Washington and Viola Davis.

Maybe there's some connection I don't know about but as far as I can tell, the only thing the Boston and New York Fences have in common is that it's the same play and the same director, Kenny Leon.

What bothers me is that the same thing happened the last time I got a call from the Huntington, just a few months ago. The young woman on the phone tried to tell me that Becky Shaw, which the theatre is presenting in the spring, was a Broadway play. I know it's an off-Broadway play.

Now, I love the Huntington. I've seen several shows there and I've enjoyed each one of them and I'll definitely go again.

I know nonprofits are hurting and it's difficult to raise money. Broadway sounds better than off Broadway and Denzel Washington sounds more impressive than John Beasley (who actually was very impressive at the Huntington in the role Washington will be playing.)

But this is getting annoying.

So here's a some advice for any theatre company that might call me in the future: if you want me to consider donating money or becoming a season subscriber, please be honest when you make your pitch. Because I was not born yesterday.

The sad thing is, the Huntington does great work. It doesn't need to embellish its record.


Bob said...

That's nearly unethical. Wow. Did you call her out on it?

Esther said...

I didn't. I figure she was reading from a script, was probably working for a company hired by the Huntington and had no idea what she was talking about. Plus it was 7 o'clock at night and I'd just gotten home and I didn't feel like getting into an argument.

I do wonder how many other theatre companies try stuff like this on unsuspecting patrons who don't follow things as closely as I do.

Rebecca Curtiss, communications manager said...

Esther, I'm sorry to hear about your experience with one of our a member of our telesales department last evening. I can assure you that misinformation (in this case, the Huntington's relationship with the Broadway production of Fences) is NOT included in the scripts from which our callers work. I think, rather, you spoke with someone who was a bit over-enthusiastic. (We're all excited about Kenny Leon's upcoming project, particularly since he's stopping in Boston before the Broadway rehearsals begin to helm our production of Stick Fly.) I'm glad we learned of your experience. We're discussing it with the callers this evening. Thanks for your continued support of the Huntington. Hope to see you at All My Sons.

Esther said...

Hi Rebecca,

Thank-you for the reply. I understand that the person who called me might have been a little over eager. I know how much the Huntington values its relationship with Kenny Leon and its history of producing August Wilson's plays.

Like I said, I've enjoyed everything I've seen at the Huntington. I'm not sure I'll be able to see All My Sons but I definitely will be back for another visit!

Anonymous said...

Hi Esther,

I'm glad someone at the Huntington saw your comment and let you know. I have always enjoyed the shows I've seen there, and although I seldom go anymore because I have trouble driving at night back to New Hampshire, I would like them to continue. I hope they use this experience to strengthen their efforts to reach people, and to realize that those of us who attend theater regularly, for maybe over 50 years aren't so easily fooled.


Esther said...

Hi Kathy, thanks for the comment! Btw, I take the bus from Providence to Boston. I don't know if that's an option for you but it would be a way to get around driving.