City theatre lures students with special performance
'It's the kind of place my parents would go to'
When students are eager for a night out, they usually flock to the pub or the movies. Why do they never go to the theatre? Small budgets and last-minute planning shouldn't be an issue, as students are allowed to buy tickets for only 10 euros on the day of the performance, from noon onwards. Unfortunately, few people are actually aware of this, so students are not making use of this advantage, says the theatre.
Priority for students
So, the city theatre started a campaign which included a performance by the comedian Kasper van der Laan, open exclusively to students on a budget.
Instead of students being able to buy discounted tickets only at the last minute, this time they were given priority. Van der performed his new show "Warm", which had already been presented to a regular audience the night before. He was happy to add one more evening to his tour, especially for students.
In spite of the campaign, the city theatre didn't manage to sell out the evening. Van der Laan stood in front of a sold-out room the night before but only half of the tickets were sold in the special night for students.
Even so, Leontien Lems, Head of Marketing and Communications, was waving off the students after the performance with a proud smile, holding a printed QR code in her hands. She asked the students if they would like to scan it so they could fill in a questionnaire. She would love to know what other performances the students would like to see.
According to Lems, Kasper van der Laan is a good performer for an audience comprised of students because of his dry and easily accessible humour. She was right about that. Kasper is not into political or philosophical topics: his jokes are about poo, haemorrhoids, spilling food and animal noises.
Van der Laan is at his best when he makes his audience squirm with impetuous discomfort. In that area, students – who, just out of puberty, are often extra sensitive to uncomfortable situations - are at the right place. And so his opening act, in which he lets the audience wave in incredibly long and stupid ways, works from the very first second.
For a moment, Van der Laan reflects on topics such as self-confidence and holding your own in the world, two things close to students' hearts. A second later, it is time to be corny again. He starts acting like the conductor of an animal orchestra.
Taking turns, he forces different groups in the room to imitate, one after the other, a chicken, a donkey, and an elephant. It is a classic case of "this is so silly it becomes funny".
Photos: Vincent van Woerkom
Brian, an Art and Economics student, says: "I almost died of laughter during the animal act. I'm ashamed of it but that was 100 per cent my favourite part."
Tia, who studies Medicine, shakes her head drily: "No, I really thought that moment was too bad. But the awkwardness he seeks out does make for nice contrasts. One moment he was philosophising about self-confidence, and the next he was pooping on the toilet."
Brian has been to the theatre before. He attends dance performances there from time to time. But this was Tia's first time, even though she has been living in Utrecht for four years. " I think it’s more of a place where my parents would go. But when I saw this promotion, I bought a ticket right away. I love comedians."
She was not yet aware of the regular student discount. She thinks she will go to the city theatre more often from now on. "If I can watch a comedian more often for ten euros, I will keep a closer eye on the programme."
'Students think 'this is not for me'
Leontien Lems is pleased with how the evening went and the enthusiasm of the audience.
Does this mean there will be more evenings like this?
"I cannot promise that. Due to the low ticket price, we are at a significant loss on such an evening. But, in any case, we will continue to focus on attracting students."
Why does the City Theatre want to attract more students?
"We think it's important that everyone living in this city visits us. Many students live in Utrecht and we've noticed that this group hardly ever buys tickets, which is a shame. After all, many students appreciate art and enjoy going to the theatre."
How come students hardly ever go to the theatre?
"I think mostly because students are last-minute planners. The most popular performances usually sell out quickly, so students also miss out on last-minute discounts. Also, it's possible that they think: 'this is not for me', assuming that the theatre is meant for the elite."
Leontien points to the space around her. "In that respect, the building doesn't help. It is a beautiful national monument, but it also has a stately appearance. You are less likely to come if you're a student."
Her words are reinforced by the deserted City Theatre Café in which she uttered them. The performance ended less than half an hour ago and all the students have already rushed out of the building.
"What a pity," laments Leontien. "Did you know that our outdoor terrace has one of the longest sun exposure times during summer?"