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The Hypocrites will produce ‘Aristophanesathon’—but only if they sell enough tickets first

Written by
Kris Vire

After the Hypocrites announced in December that they were cutting short their 20th anniversary season due to financial shortfalls, founder Sean Graney told the Chicago Reader that the company would shift from a subscription model to a project-oriented one, with productions coming only after production costs are in the bank. Today, we have a little more info about how that will work, as the Hypocrites announced a “Ticket Pledge” drive for the premiere of Graney’s The Aristophanesathon a year from now—a production that will only go forward if the Hypocrites secure 2,000 pledged ticket buyers by June 30 of this year.

In the vein of Graney’s previous All Our Tragic and Sophocles: Seven Sicknesses, The Aristophanesathon is a marathon mashup adaptation of Aristophanes’ 11 surviving comedies, including Lysistrata, The Frogs and The Birds. Right now on the Hypocrites’ website, you can either pay $45 per ticket (which includes a provided meal during the four-and-a-half-hour show), with dates to be determined later, or you can pledge to buy tickets at that price should the show go forward, without providing any credit card info now.

Only after the number of tickets sold or pledged hits the goal of 2,000 will production move forward, in which case the company will put additional tickets on sale at $50. If that telethon thermometer doesn’t break 2,000 by June 30, the show won’t go on; pledges will be canceled at no cost, and presales will be refunded—minus a credit card processing fee of $4 each.

It’s certainly an interesting experiment, but one that comes with a lot of uncertainty for all parties. With neither a venue nor exact dates locked down (just “April/May 2018”), Graney is asking for a lot of faith from audience members and artists alike. Hypocrites ensemble members Breon Arzell, Sasha Smith and Tien Doman have been announced to appear in The Aristophanesathon, but if the project doesn't meet its goal by the end of June, they’re left with a hole in their schedules and projected incomes. We’ll be watching closely to see how this plays out.

Other Hypocrites news today includes a bit of restructuring: Graney will shift from the title of artistic director to “lead artist,” while former executive director Kelli Strickland remains on as a consultant rather than staff. And Graney and his board of directors have rebooted the ensemble for the company’s new direction—it now consists of 30 artists ranging from longtime company members like Kurt Ehrmann and Jennifer Grace to more recent collaborators; meet the whole group here.

And finally, the company says that Mercury Theater Chicago will present the Hypocrites’ production of Dracula this fall, and the Hypocrites will also continue touring their Gilbert & Sullivan repertory, with a summer 2018 run of The Pirates of Penzance and H.M.S. Pinafore announced by Maryland’s Olney Theatre Center.

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