By Ilana Bernstein
I had the great honor and privilege of seeing “Hamilton,” the smash hit, constantly sold out musical, this past Sunday. It far exceeded my expectations and is one of the most brilliant pieces of art I have ever seen.
Unfortunately, the truth is that despite how excited I was to see the show, I felt uncomfortable telling people I was there. Hamilton tickets are extremely expensive and highly coveted. Prior to seeing the show, I was nervous to tell people because I was afraid that I would be judged, that it would be assumed I was wealthy and could afford the tickets, that I was somehow elite.
This is entirely not the case. I sat on Ticketmaster for way too long back in June 2016 to get affordable tickets in the second to last row of the theatre. In June, the soonest performance I was able to find was Feb. 26, 2017.
It saddens me that this was the only way I could buy tickets. Musical theatre has greatly shaped the human I am today. I owe so much to the extraordinary people who create and sustain musicals. I wish everyone had the opportunity to watch musical theatre.
According to The Broadway League, the Broadway audience demographics for the 2015-2016 season of all Broadway shows were:
- 67 percent of the audiences were female
- 77 percent of all tickets were purchased by Caucasian theatregoers
- The average age of the Broadway theatregoer was almost 44 years old
- Of theatregoers over 25 years old, 80 percent had completed college and 40 percent earned a graduate degree
- The average Broadway theatregoer reported attending five shows in the previous 12 months
In comparison to the 2008-2009 season, many of these numbers have increased. In 2008-2009:
- 74 percent of all tickets were purchased by Caucasian theatergoer
- Of theatregoers over 25 years old, 73 percent had completed college and 36 percent had earned a graduate degree
In 2008-2009, the annual household income for a Broadway theatregoer was $195,700.
“Hamilton” is a story of immigrants, and its cast is extremely diverse. It is a story that could and should touch the lives of so many people that will never be able to see it, unless something changes.
One of the main reasons why tickets are nearly impossible to acquire is scalpers. In a recent New York Times article, Michael Paulson and Ben Sisario, discussed the issue.
They wrote: “Both [Hamilton and Harry Potter] have fallen prey to high-tech scalpers who harvest large quantities of seats and resell them at exorbitant markups. ‘Hamilton’ has been hit particularly hard: When it first opened on Broadway, nearly 80 percent of seats were purchased by automated ticket bots, and for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s final performance, resellers were seeking an average of $10,900 a seat.”
The issue is on the minds of many, including the shows’ producers and policymakers.
I don’t know how to resolve this issue and others that plague the accessibility of the production. I truly hope one day Broadway is completely accessible to everyone, no matter race, age, ethnicity, gender, social class, wealth status or any other determining factor. I don’t ever want a child to feel that seeing a show can only be a dream. I want every child to know that it can be a reality.
“Hamilton” was incredible, but I wish it was accessible to all who have a desire to see it. The sad reality is many of them may never make it into “the room where it happens.”
Featured Photo Credit: Feature photo courtesy of Hamilton: An American Musical on Facebook.
Ilana Bernstein is a junior journalism and theatre double major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.