TICKETplace, the half-price, day-of-performance D.C. ticket booth that cost more than $90,000 to build, has the makings of a hit, according to Maryland ticket buyers.
Maryland performing arts organizations also like the new ticket-selling system, although representatives say it is still too early to tell whether it will have a large impact on keeping their houses packed.
After two weeks of operation, TICKETplace sales are brisk, and seats that might gather dust in Maryland and other area theaters are now being filled.
The booth at F Street Plaza between 12th and 13th streets NW is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Monday from noon to 2 p.m., as so many area theaters are dark on Mondays. It is located a block from the Metro Center subway exit and has a ramp for disabled patrons.
During its first two weeks of operation, the booth has attracted steady streams of ticket seekers. Myra Peabody of the Cultural Alliance of Greater Washington, the arts service organization that sponsors TICKETplace, said she believes the booth is off to a great start.
More than a dozen Maryland performing organizations participate in TICKETplace. The organizations release a block of tickets on the day of a performance -- tickets theater managers do not think will sell at full price. TICKETplace sells them for half price.
For theater-goers, TICKETplace offers a cost-cutting option, if they are willing to take a chance on waiting until performance day to buy tickets. And for the theaters themselves, tickets sold at half price are better than empty seats.
The Maryland groups selling tickets through TICKETplace are: A Newe Jewell (early chamber music), the Free Association Dance Association, Hoffman Dance Concert, the Maryland Dance Theatre, the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington, the Olney, Round House and Prince George's Little Theatres, Prince George's Philharmonic, (Maryland) University Community Concerts, the Prince George's Choral Society, the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America, Rafiki Productions, Maryland's Summer Institute for Creative Performing Arts and Student Entertainment Enterprises.
In addition, 38 Virginia and District of Columbia organizations are participating in the venture.
Barbara Kleine, head treasurer for TICKETplace, said the booth sold about one-third of the tickets given to it on the first weekend of operation by three Maryland theaters -- Round House, Prince George's Little Theatre and Tawes Recital Hall.
Kleine said TICKETplace may be a boon for suburban theaters. When popular shows in the District are sold out, she said, many people buy tickets for shows at smaller theaters in the suburbs.
Officials at several Maryland theaters said although they believe TICKETplace is a good idea, it is too early to tell how it will affect their houses.
There is a fee for artists and organizations participating in TICKETplace who are not members of the cultural alliance. The fee is the same amount it costs to join the alliance: $50 for organizations with budgets under $25,000 a year. Larger groups' fees are based on their operating budgets.
Ticket seekers must pay cash. They also may purchase advance full-price tickets at the booth.
A "menu board" lists the theaters and events available for the day. The board is updated about every two hours. A copy of "On Stage," a guide brochure, gives patrons the history and location of theaters. Maryland theaters in the listing include the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre and the Jewish Community Center in Rockville, the Round House and Tawes theaters.
There are some kinks in the new ticket system, according to Maryland ticket seekers.
Many of those in line came away with no tickets. Some bought tickets for a different performance than the one they had hoped to attend. Others were only curious about what TICKETplace offered, if there were any tickets for hit shows such as National Theatre's "Evita" (the show is selling so well that there are none) or where a given theater is located.
Mitchell Alkoin and Paul Edelman of Bethesda were pleased with the prices of the tickets but had to settle for their fourth choice of shows. Both said TICKETplace is "a great idea," but they complained about the lack of choices. "Something like this is good for plays that are doing very poorly, not for hit shows," Alkoin said. Edelman said he would come again, but this time get there "right when the booth opened."
The early birds did, indeed, get the best tickets. The Folger Theatre's Julius Caesar sold out by 12:30 p.m. one Saturday. Theater buffs Antheny Holloway and Greg Gischia, both from Bethesda, had come on a Friday night for tickets to "Kingdoms" at the Kennedy Center, but were turned away. They came back Saturday and got tickets for the matinee performance.
Perhaps the best part of the new service, which is modeled after successful operations in New York and Boston, was voiced by another weekend ticket buyer: "Finally, there are tickets at a price we can afford."
For information on TICKETplace, call 842-5387 (TIC-KETS).