(First published in 2007 www.aussietheatre.com)

I have a radical idea for all you out there in complimentary ticket land… I would like to ask why you are deserving of a complimentary ticket? Comp tickets are one of the easiest things for people to get upset about. They are sort of like invitations to wedding receptions.. everyone who knows you feels entitled to a comp, even though you may only know them through tenuous circumstances.

What is even more difficult is the need for complimentary tickets for co-operative shows: the humble “co-op” as they are known. For those Musical theatre buffs who are unaware of the system they call the “co-op” lets run you through a quick model.
You are invited to perform a role/function as a part of a performance be put on at a theatre as an “independent theatre company.” You are not paid for your time. If you are lucky you may get a scotch finger biscuit and cup of tea, in your break , if you are lucky. Your financial contribution to the production is your time and your skills. You are then to bring as many of your friends family and relative to see the production and hope they bring their work colleagues, their butcher, baker and candlestick maker in order to fill out the house. If you manage to do this you may be able to make some money… but well below the wage you deserve or wish for.. no one got rich from doing a co-op. I have known a couple of actors getting $2500 for a 4 week run…. But that was an exception not a rule…

For shows I have been involved with this is what I have earnt: $0 (but free drinks at the bar for 6 weeks work), $50 (for 8 weeks work), $350 (for 8 weeks work), $475 (for 8 weeks work). And The reason why I have been paid for anything is because people have paid to see the show. If people don’t pay to see the show: people don’t get paid.

I am currently in a job where I am able to claim movie and cinema tickets as a tax deduction. I refuse to accept comp tickets. I can pay, I will pay, I will use it as a deduction. I think it would be immoral and irresponsible for me to demand comps of people who have dedicated so much of their time, energy and talent. Surely if you are in the industry, have food and a roof over your head etc.. you can pay for a ticket? Shouldn’t comps go to those who are the endless and tireless supporters of the artists?  The people who help support the artists and actors when they are between jobs, feeling low and useless and blue? Shouldn’t comps be for them.. as a gift and a thank you for all that they have endured and done for them?

I am going to request something  of you… If you can afford to go to the theatre.. go. Go and pay. Don’t take a comp off a person unless you know they are well supported, resourced and are being paid an equity wage for the show you are about to see. And don’t see comps as a right or a status token.. see it as a gift from people who really work hard.