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Update: Proof of Vaccination Required to Attend undercurrents

In an effort to keep our audiences, artists, and staff safe during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, here at the Ottawa Fringe, we have decided to continue to require Proof of Vaccination (Vaccine Passports) for all in-person events at this year’s undercurrents festival, April 20 – 30.

While capacity limits will be lifted, we will be offering select performances at a reduced capacity so that everyone can enjoy undercurrents according to their own comfort level.

Tickets on sale March 11, 2022.

Any questions and concerns can be directed to info@ottawafringe.com

2021 PATRON SURVEY

If you attended undercurrents this year, we would love your feedback! Digital events may be sticking around, so we’d like to hear from you so we can continue to make our online offerings the best they can be.

ARTIST ROUNDTABLE

Saturday, March 20 | 5PM


Join this year’s festival artists as they talk about making theatre during a pandemic; the ups, the downs, and the celebration of creative problem-solving.

The Artist Roundtable will be live-streamed right here on Saturday, March 20, beginning at 5PM.

The Artists
Sarah Conn
Jacqui du Toit
Madeleine Hall
Franco Pang & Alli Harris
Megan Piercey Monafu
Kate Smith & Scottie Irving


ANCILLARY PROGRAMMING, NEW PLAY TUESDAY | 2022

Join us for New Play Tuesday, Late Night events, and Opening and Closing receptions.

New Play Tuesday

Tuesday, April 26 @ 7:00 pm

Arts Court Studio

FREE ADMISSION!

Title:

Grave Consequences

Playwrights:

Douglas Newham & Thomas Futter

Description:

Ever wondered what your family would say about you after you were dead? If you were Henwick Carmichael, you might just find out. You might even be able to get back at them. After all, Henwick Carmichael isn’t actually dead…

Join entitled heirs, communist servants, and the Ghost of June 10th Past for a spooky midnight romp through the “haunted” halls of Carmichael Manor. You’ll be dying to find out what happens.

Show content warnings:

Mild profanity, sexual innuendo.

Instagram

 


Title:

Terminally Ill 

Playwright:

Melissa Yi

Description:

A Houdini Whodunit: mystery, medicine and … Elvis 

Elvis the Escape King plunges into the icy waters of Montreal’s St. Lawrence River, chained and nailed into a coffin—and never breaks free. 

After they dredge Elvis from the waves, Dr. Hope Sze resuscitates him, saving his life. Next Hope must deduce who sabotaged Elvis’s act in this interactive piece inspired by Melissa Yi’s novel, Terminally Ill. We plan to incorporate aerial (vertical) and immersive components in the final production.

Show content warnings:

Medical crisis, mild profanity.

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Late Night Laughs

Friday, April 29 @ 10:30pm

Arts Court Studio

Late Night Laughs 

Join us for a drink and a laugh with local comedians: Alia Rasul, Randy Schumcker, Christina Muehlburger and host Tavis Maplesden.


Closing Night Party

Saturday, April 30 @ 10:30pm

Arts Court Studio

Join us after the closing performance of Me, Vivien Leigh and the Roller Rink with snacks and refreshments featuring DJ AL Connors.

undercurrents 2020 Pick Your Price report

What did we do?

After disappointing attendance numbers for the 2019 undercurrents festival, we made a number of changes to the festival’s model. The highest profile – and arguably most dramatic – of these changes was moving from a fixed-price ticket structure to a Pick-Your-Price structure, taking inspiration from Why Not Theatre and Ottawa’s Crush Improv.

Traditionally, undercurrents tickets were sold in three tiers: $20 General Admission; $15 “I Need a Discount”, a no-questions-asked lower price for those who needed it; and $25 “Arts Supporter”, a slightly higher price for those who could afford it. On top of those prices we had various promo codes, and students were pay-what-you-can at the door. In addition to single tickets the 2019 festival offered 6-show Festival Passes ($100), and 2-show Evening Passes ($32).

Our goal with the various prices was to make undercurrents as financially accessible as possible while also hitting our revenue targets. But when the dust settled on the 2019 festival the numbers weren’t pretty:

Capacity Paid Attendance Comps Total Attendance Revenue Capacity %
2633 885 391 1276 $17,660.00 48%

When planning began for the 2020 edition of the festival, everything was “on the table.” That is to say, we looked at everything we were doing – programming, scheduling, marketing, pricing – and looked at it as though we were starting a festival from scratch: if undercurrents had never happened before this year, how would we design it? 

So in addition to changing how we programmed, scheduled, and marketed the shows, we also decided to change the pricing structure, settling on a Pick-Your-Price (PYP) model with four tiers: $5, $20, $50, and $75. All prices were available for all performances to everyone, and seating at undercurrents is General Admission, so there was no material difference in experience between a $5 and $75 ticket.

We debated which price points to use, but started with a $5 ticket because we wanted a price which was as broadly accessible as possible; and since undercurrents tickets are usually $20, that was an easy call to make as well. Like Why Not, we chose $50 and $75 for our two higher tiers, assuming we wouldn’t sell many of those (our audience demographics skew younger with lower than average household incomes) but wanted to experiment with what people would be willing and able to pay.

Not included in the above numbers are online fees for tickets, which were $2/ticket regardless of which price point was purchased. The decision on whether or not to charge out the fees or eat them ourselves was more difficult than the decision to implement the PYP model (it felt strange adding a 40% surcharge to a $5 ticket…), but ultimately we needed the fees to offset box office costs, and if the additional $2 was a barrier patrons did have the option of purchasing tickets at the door with no additional fees.

People asked why we didn’t have more options (“why no $10 ticket?” was our most frequent question). The short answer is, we wanted to keep things as simple as possible. We anticipated that communicating the PYP structure could be challenging, so the fewer options the better. 

How did we do?

Our revenue goal for the festival was $21,500. And admittedly, when ticket sales launched in December and the first dozen or so tickets were all sold for $5 I definitely thought “we’ve made a terrible mistake…” 

We didn’t, of course, sell only $5 tickets, and by the time we closed on February 15 sales were about in line with what we expected:

Ticket Price Number sold % of sales Revenue % of revenue
$5 1062 50% $5,310 23%
$20 748 36% $14,960 66%
$50 42 2% $2,100 9%
$75 6 <1% $450 2%
Complimentary 255 12% $0 0%
2113 100% $22,820 100%

The $5 tier made up 50% of all sales (57% if you take comps out), but represented only 23% of revenue; while the other three tiers + comps represented the 50% of sales (or 43% without comps) and 77% of revenue.

Looking at the 2019 and 2020 numbers side by side, the difference is startling:

Year Capacity Paid Attendance Comps Total Attendance Revenue Capacity %
2019 2633 885 391 1276 $17,660 48%
2020 2616 1858 255 2113 $22,820 81%

Year over year we saw a 66% increase in attendance (which included selling almost 1000 more tickets), 32% increase in house capacity, and 29% increase in revenue. We had four shows sell out their entire run, with 12/24 performances selling out.

An unintended (but welcome) side effect of the pricing was that our comps dropped significantly, coming in at 12% of all tickets (with 95/255 comps used on opening night). Our previous best had been 17% comps in 2018, with comps hitting a high of 30% in 2019. Did the $5 price discourage people from asking for free tickets? We can’t know for sure but suspect this to be the case. 

Finally, we were interested in our audience’s buying habits. Since we weren’t offering ticket packages as we had in past years, we encouraged audience members to pick which shows they wanted to see, decide how much they wanted to spend, and create their own package from there. You could see all nine shows for $45, buy two tickets for $25, buy one at $50 and the rest at $5, etc. 

We dove into the data a bit, looking at each transaction to see what the buying habits were:

Price Online transactions Also bought $5 Also bought $20 Also bought $50 Also bought $75 Only bought at one price
$5 518 0 87 2 1 428
$20 357 87 0 15 0 255
$50 32 2 15 0 0 15
$75 4 1 0 0 0 3

So of the 518 sales that had a $5 ticket, 87 included a $20, 2 included a $50, 1 a $75, and 428 transactions were only $5 ticket(s).

From this we learned that we had 806 unique patrons buy advance tickets, of which 392 (49%) were first time undercurrents attendees – a huge win and some of whom will hopefully turn into repeat attendees in 2021.

Will we do it again?

Because we made so many changes to this festival format this year, it’s impossible to conclude how much this year’s box office success was due to pricing vs. programming vs. marketing vs. scheduling (or vs. weather, which was terrible in 2019 but uncharacteristically cooperative in 2020). However, it is undoubtedly true that the PYP model made the festival more accessible than previous editions, and the anecdotal evidence is overwhelming in showing that the pricing allowed patrons to spend what they would normally spend at the festival, but see more shows.

While we may tweak the parameters of our PYP model (a $10 tier? a $100 ticket that comes with a tax receipt?) we are fully committed to moving forward with this pricing structure and would encourage others to consider it as well. 

INDUSTRY EVENTS | 2020

Industry Events

Join us at Arts Court on Saturdays where we’re running a series of Industry-focused events that will bring together local artists and producers for networking, discussions, and performances. 

All events are free (unless indicated), but please RSVP so we know how many to expect.


SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 8

INDUSTRY BREAKFAST
10:00AM
ARTS COURT STUDIO

Early-birds can enjoy a light breakfast and chat with their pals before the day’s events begin. RSVP

PANEL: OTTAWA THEATRE 2020
10:30AM
ARTS COURT STUDIO

Let’s get REAL. As 2020 begins, what is the state of Ottawa’s theatre scene – will a new decade bring new opportunities? How can we avoid repeating past mistakes? What can we do to build a vibrant, inclusive community?    

A discussion about aesthetics, accessibility, inclusion, censorship, funding, criticism, burnout… and more.

Moderated by Patrick Gauthier & Brit Johnston. RSVP

CRIPPLED* BY PAUL DAVID POWER
1:00PM
ARTS COURT THEATRE

It’s your last chance to see the show in Ottawa before they head back east. The performance will be followed by a talkback, moderated by Brit Johnston. 

*a ticket is required to attend this performance 

DISCOVERY SERIES PERFORMANCES: HOME SWEET…SOMETHING* and BETH-ANNE*
2:30 & 4:00PM
ARTS COURT LIBRARY

Our 2020 Discovery Series wraps up with the second (and final) performances of a new satire by local creators Ayesha Chubb, Zaakirah Chubb, and Ludmylla Reis; and Monica Bradford-Lea and Nick Leno’s solo physical comedy. Stop horsing around – see these shows!

(and make sure to stick around for the Discovery Series group talkback at 5:30)

*tickets are required to attend these performance

INDUSTRY 5à7
5:00PM
ARTS COURT STUDIO

End your day with a drink and snack… and the Discovery Series group talkback! Associate Festival Director Brit Johnston will chat with the creators of Beth-Anne, Home Sweet… Something, and Honey Dew Me about the process of making their shows and the Ottawa creation scene. RSVP


SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 15

INDUSTRY BREAKFAST
10:00AM
ARTS COURT STUDIO

Up early this weekend? Head to down Arts Court for croissants and conversation before the day’s events begin. RSVP

PANEL: UNDERCURRENTS 2030
10:30AM
ARTS COURT STUDIO

Ottawa’s festival of theatre below the mainstream is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2020 – and now we’re looking ahead to the next 10 years. We want to hear from YOU.  How do you imagine undercurrents 2030? 

Join festival staff and artists for a town hall community consultation on the future of undercurrentsRSVP

PERFORMANCES: KITT & JANE(…)* and CARDINAL*
1:00 & 3:00PM
ARTS COURT THEATRE

Last day of the festival! Binge as much theatre as you can! Each performance will be followed by a talkback.

*tickets are required to attend these performances 

INDUSTRY 5à7
5:00PM
ARTS COURT STUDIO

Unwind with friends and colleagues as we prepare to close out the 2020 undercurrents festival. Feeling hardcore? Stick around for the evening performances and our closing night party. RSVP

NEW PLAY TUESDAY | 2020

New Play Tuesday

Keeping with tradition – New Play Tuesday is back!

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 11
7:00PM
ARTS COURT STUDIO

Join us for a staged-reading of:

OUT OF FRAGILITY
created by Michel Oulette
featuring Katie Bunting, Brit Johnston, and John Koensgen

Drake is a wealthy and powerful man embroiled in controversy. Under attack from all sides, he retreats with his lover Helly and tries to figure out how to save his legacy for his daughter Colleen. As they struggle with the situation, father, lover and daughter come to grip with their own personal frailty.

Free admission


ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

MICHEL OUELLETTE

Michel Ouellette is a Franco-Ontarian playwright and writer. He was born
and grew up in Smooth Rock Falls, in northern Ontario. He now lives in
Gatineau, Québec. In 1994, he won the Governor General’s Literary Award
for his play French Town; in 2003, the French Trillium Book Award for Le
testament du couturier; in 2011, the Prix Michel-Tremblay for La guerre au
ventre, and, in 2019 a Prix Rideau Award for Le dire de Di (directed by Joël
Beddows). His work has been presented in Ottawa, Toronto, Sudbury and in
Québec. Out of Fragility is his first play written in English.