Hey Here, Chicago lovers! We hope you’re enjoying this beautiful summer. We have been taking the season to reflect on the past and future of this wonderful event. As producer and host of the show, it is a special thing that I’m grateful to have held for all these years, and something I’d like to continue to hold going forward.
The question of sustainability may be surprising to some, given the popularity of our event, and its regularly sold-out audiences. So I will pull back the curtain a bit and shine some light on the inner workings of this unusual, lovely thing.
Because of our uniquely low pricing structure– $8 or FREE with a dish for the potluck– Here, Chicago doesn’t break even at our events. This is because we give most of our tickets away for free, to people who bring food to the events. Yep… you read that right. In a room full of 100 people, 70 of you will likely have free seats, which leaves us with ticket sales that don’t meet our monthly expenses, even when the show is sold-out. This leaves us (me) actually losing about $100 on each show, given the production costs which include theater rental, printed materials, website and free podcast, dinnerware for the potluck. And as much as I am interested in the project continuing to be a labor of love, I also recognize that if it is going to continue, it has to do so in a more healthily, self-sustaining way. Because arts teachers ain’t rollin’ in dough.
It may be puzzling to some that we’ve continued in this way for almost 5 years; losing money on a sold-out event. And writing that now does make it seem a little absurd. But the reason has been the wish to create a thoroughly non-exclusive space; to bring Chicagoans together from all walks of life and all income brackets. To offer a communally-created event where the goal is not profit, but collaboration. I also understand that the positive feelings that surround this event relate to its accessibility. When tellers and audience members send emails expressing thanks for a “life-changing” night, I believe those feelings come partly from participating in a rare situation where everyone is welcome, lots of different people contribute (food, stories, admission to pay for the venue, volunteer time, etc), and no one is trying to profit from that generosity.
But I also understand that in order for this to continue in a way that is sustaining and not draining, the event has to break even. For this reason, we will be changing our pricing structure just a little. On October 4th, the regular ticket will change from $8 to $11, and potluck tickets will remain Free. I stubbornly protect the free ticket option, as I recognize the donation of prepared food as a full contribution to the night.
This change still won’t produce a profit, but it will allow us to break even every month, rather than lose money. I’m happy that this small change will let people contribute in a way that is more commensurate with the true expense of running the event, without taking admission from the realm of affordability. If by some chance $8 was affordable for you and $11 is not, please take advantage of the FREE ticket option, and bring an inexpensive food item… homemade popcorn, mac & cheese, roasted veggies, or berries and whipped cream. We gratefully welcome creations made with care on any budget.
The other way I’m looking to let the show live long and prosper, is by making a fresh call for volunteers. If you’d like to join Nnamdi Ngwe, Mary Cait Walthall, Molly Emmons and many others in making things go each month, let us know! Just write to firstname.lastname@example.org. All of us who give time are unpaid. But for your regular participation, we are happy to offer you a free seat at the show, free dinner, and a night of unmatched creative community and connections. We also offer the glory of being on our team! An official title in some cases, and exposure of your work in others. (Intern credit is happily signed-off on, as well.)
We will be skipping September for the Labor Day holiday, and look forward to seeing you on October 4th!
Warm regards to everyone, and thanks.
Artistic Director, Producer & Host
Here, Chicago on October 4th
Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont
7:30 potluck | 8pm show