We've gotten a few questions about our pricing model and how it impacts our business.
Kismet's marquee shows (Friday Night Frenzy, Kismet + Friends) are offered at $20/ticket. Independent shows, community shows and jams will typically be offered at $10-$15/ticket. Special guest show ticket prices may vary.
Our bar prices range from $1 (snack) to $10 (canned cocktail), but most items will be somewhere in-between. Beers will be $5-$6.
Why is the ticket $20?
Here's what offering our tickets at $20 allows us to do:
Make investments in health and safety protocols, including COVID-19 best practices
Pay each performer in our marquee cast $30 per show
Pay our house teams $50 per show
Pay our front-of-house staff $15+/hour
Pay our part-time staff a market-rate salary
Retain an HR professional to manage employee relations, conflict, sexual harassment/assault and health and safety issues
Offer our comedy classes free to BIPOC students, as well as additional scholarships and discounts
Pay our comedy teachers at a right-sized and competitive rate
Host our theater at Hope Artiste Village and being part of a community of working artists
Advertise our theater, classes and community to new, diverse populations within our community
Offer free stand-by tickets to community members
Why this matters
The Upright Citizens Brigade opened their theater in New York City in the late 1990s with a unique business model: $5 shows, and no one on stage gets paid. Their argument was that time on their stage was worth more than money. And since a percentage of UCB improvisers went on to have extremely lucrative entertainment careers, it may have appeared that way.
This decision by UCB had ramifications on the nationwide improv scene. If a show at a famed New York City theater, performed by celebrities and future-celebrities, cost only $5, how could a show in a smaller city, performed by non-famouses, ever cost more than that?
The proliferation of this mindset has caused significant problems within the greater improv landscape over the past 20 years. Because theaters had to superficially raise the prices of their classes to cover costs, they increased the barriers to becoming an improviser. This resulted in the vast majority of improvisers being affluent and white.
Then, on top of the high sticker price of classes, becoming a 'professional' improviser didn't come with a salary. In the case that you had enough years under your belt to teach improv, you were only paid a small percentage of that class revenue, since most of it had to cover theater operations.
In 2018, it became clear that this financial model did not work. The theater began to shutter locations and suspend operations in order to cut costs - again, which did not include paying their primary labor force. In the wake of COVID-19, UCB, along with many other theaters operating under this model, shut down most operations permanently.
Kismet's core values and goals
Here's what's important to us:
Keeping our performers, students, employees audiences and community members safe
Paying our performers and teachers what they are worth
Paying our hourly workers the progressive standard minimum wage
Breaking down barriers for traditionally marginalized people to access improv, comedy and art generally
Being a financially viable business that can become a mainstay in Rhode Island for many years
By offering our shows at a $20 ticket, we're confident we'll be able to do all of the above for a long time.