The current Yale Cabaret season is on track to end its run with the highest revenues the theater has earned in the past five years.
After eight productions that have collectively put on dozens of performances, the 2013-’14 season has shown a noticeable increase in attendance, ticket sales, restaurant sales and donor contributions from its previous four seasons, according to the theater’s financial records. The Cabaret’s Managing Director Shane Hudson DRA ’14 said that every Cabaret performance this season has been sold out thus far, with only a few exceptions.
“We judge everything based on the art that is created and the community that is created,” Hudson said. “We are doing better financially than the past four or five seasons because we have been selling out nearly every show, and that happens when the art we create really resonates with the audience.”
Yale School of Drama Associate Dean Joan Channick DRA ’89 noted that while every Cabaret show is unique, this season’s productions are all marked by their sense of urgency. Whitney Dibo DRA ’14, one of the Cabaret’s artistic directors, explained that she and the other directors have placed a strong emphasis on the questions of “Why here?” and “Why now?,” requiring all of this season’s shows to embody ideas that are relevant and thought-provoking to a present-day audience, even if they are not set in the current era. The themes in these shows are applicable both to the general state of society and the specific communities drawn to the Cabaret’s performances, which adds to the shows’ appeal, Channick said.
Hudson also listed the growth in private donations as a key factor in the Cabaret’s high income levels this season. These contributions are important to its operations because not-for-profit theaters such as the Cabaret receive roughly half of their income from such donations, he explained, adding that most of the contributions come from the local community.
“We have put a lot more emphasis on fundraising than in past years,” Hudson said. “We want to make the community more involved with the Cabaret.”
Hudson said that last semester, the theater’s management team hosted two social events for individuals who have consistently attended Cabaret performances for considerable periods of time. The guests had the opportunity to meet each other as well as the Cabaret’s leaders. George Fallon, a local resident who has been attending Cabaret shows since 1978, said he does not recall the Cabaret ever hosting any such events prior to this season. Additionally, the team decided to continue the “show sponsoring” program that began during the 2012-’13 season — an initiative that allowed patrons to sponsor individual Cabaret productions. As of Nov. 19, 2013, 14 of the 18 productions in the theater’s current season were already sponsored.
“These efforts really make the audience feel like they are close with the Cabaret’s leadership, not simply people who come to see plays once in a while,” Channick said. “Now, it is almost as if patrons are competing to sponsor as many shows as possible.”
Hudson and Channick noted that this season’s economic success could also be attributed to improvements in the Cabaret’s restaurant, which is also maintained by the Cabaret’s managing team. In the past, patrons have expressed concerns about issues such as the waiting time for food orders, Channick explained, adding that this year, the Cabaret’s leadership has paid particularly close attention to its restaurant service. Hudson said that he and the other directors have hired an additional chef to assist Head Chef Anna Belcher in the kitchen, introduced a formalized training program for all waiters and waitresses and became much more selective in the hiring process for waitstaff.
Walsh and Hudson said the current season’s success is part of a gradual rise in attendance and sales that the Cabaret has been experiencing for the past five years. Walsh recalled that three years ago, he rarely needed to reserve tickets in advance. Now, it is practically impossible to attend any performance at the Cabaret without making such reservations, he noted. Debby Applegate GRD ’98, a local resident who has been attending Cabaret performances for over 15 years, said she thinks that the success of each show leads to greater interest in attending the next show, which creates a cyclical pattern that has resulted in long-term increases in audience size and commitment.
“There is nothing like success to breed success, and nothing like enthusiasm to breed enthusiasm,” she said.
The Yale Cabaret was founded in 1967.