Shakespeare festival raises ticket prices, limits 'value' season

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is raising ticket prices again for the coming season and has canceled its spring and fall "value" seasons for nonmembers.

OSF also has changed its brochure and website to say that a ticket's price "starts at" a particular amount. But when the season is in high gear, people who attend popular plays can expect to pay up to $16.50 more per ticket than the published price.

The festival still will offer a number of deals, such as $20 seats, $19.35 tickets during promotions for young adults ages 19 through 35, and five Flexpass tickets for $99.

Despite a recession that began in December 2007, OSF has continued to raise ticket prices each year.

An A section seat that cost $65.50 on a summer weekend in 2008 will cost $73.50 to $79 in 2011, depending on the play's popularity.

Two years ago, OSF introduced "dynamic pricing," also known as "demand pricing" in marketing circles. Under dynamic pricing, a ticket's price rises when demand to see a play is very strong, said OSF Marketing Manager Bob Hackett.

"We have a finite product with a finite number of seats, much like a hotel or an airline," he said.

For example, if a person wants to watch the popular musical "The Pirates of Penzance" on a summer weekend in 2011, that person is likely to pay top price, he said.

On the flip side of dynamic pricing, if a play isn't popular, OSF is likely to offer discounts, Hackett said.

OSF members can get 40 percent discounts on tickets during spring and fall "value" seasons. Membership starts at $60.

Nonmembers previously could get 25 percent discounts during spring and fall, but OSF will not offer that pricing for nonmembers in 2011, Hackett said.

Annual ticket price increases appear to have had little impact on OSF's popularity.

It closed out the 2009 season with record attendance and revenue figures, and broke new records for the 2010 season. Overall theater capacity was at 94 percent in 2010, with four of OSF's 11 plays selling at 98 to 100 percent capacity.

The coming season opens on Feb. 18 and runs through Nov. 6.

— Ashland Daily Tidings

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