by Len Lear
Kevin Glaccum, 60, a Mt. Airy resident for more than 30 years, was a two-time “Jeopardy” champion in June of 2000, winning $15,400 (“I think I bought a car with the money”), and winner of $1,000 on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” in April of 2011. He is also the director of Azuka Theatre’s acclaimed “Ship,” running through March 15 at the Proscenium at the Drake, 302 S. Hicks St. (between 15th and 16th Street, near Spruce) in Center City.
Azuka is one of many community theaters in the Philadelphia area, but as far as we know, it is unique in the country in its “Pay What You Decide (PWYD)” policy. “This ‘Try it before you buy it’ model allows you to determine the value of your experience after you’ve seen the show,” said Glaccum. “A city that celebrates so many historic ‘firsts’ was the perfect place to launch the only full-season model of this kind in the U.S. The program debuted during the 2016-2017 season.”
Glaccum explained, “Audience members make a reservation for a show, see the production first and then pay what they decide based on the value of the experience. The policy of pay-what-you-decide is designed to bring in new audiences and remove financial barriers to theater. No money is exchanged before the show.”
Tickets will be available to reserve in advance as usual, but there is no obligation to pay until after the show. Patrons can then decide on a price which they think is suitable based on their experience. Ticket payment can be made after the performance by cash, check or credit card. Patrons can also make a payment after the show on the Azuka website. All money collected helps to pay Azuka artists and further support future productions.
How has “Pay What You Decide” worked out? “It has been wildly successful! Both our audience numbers AND our income went up 30% the year we instituted it and have remained there. This is our fourth year of a complete PWYD box office. Our average ticket price now is around $15, which is higher than it was when we set the prices!”
In the current world premiere at Azuka, “Ship,” fresh out of rehab, Nell returns to her hometown of Mystic, Connecticut, with two goals: track down her former classmate who tried and failed to grow the longest fingernails in the world and be promoted to the highest-profile job in town: tour guide at the Seaport. With the help and hindrance of her older sister, Nell grabs at her chance for hometown glory.
In the March 1 issue of the Philadelphia Inquirer, critic Cameron Kelsall gave “Ship,” by Philly playwright Douglas Williams, an ecstatic review. He wrote, “Williams excels at considering heavy subjects through precise, introspective character study, with healthy doses of humor and an oddball energy. ‘Ship’ explores addiction, isolation and the profoundly unmoored ethos of the millennial generation, but it does so without calling attention to these topics in an obvious way.
“The comedy and the pathos emerge from the playwright’s genuine affection for the misfits who populate his quirky world … (It all) unfolds under Kevin Glaccum’s steady, sympathetic direction, which lets the comedy breathe and the serious elements gain an appropriate emotional weight.”
Glaccum, who grew up in Bustleton in Northeast Philly, graduated from Temple University in 1983 with a BA in Communication (Radio-Television-Film). For the past nine years he has been teaching at Arcadia University, and he has been a member of Azuka Theatre since their inaugural production of “La Rue des Faux.” For Azuka he has directed 21 productions including 11 world premieres. He was nominated for a Best Director Barrymore Award for “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” in 2008.
Kevin was a recipient of a 2018 Independence Foundation Fellowship in the Arts. In addition, he is a member of Lincoln Center’s Directors Lab and a founding member of the Board of Directors of Theatre Philadelphia.
What is the hardest thing Glaccum has ever done? “Run a non-profit arts organization!”
What is the best advice he has ever been given? “Follow your heart. It took me longer to take that advice than I wish it had, but the past 20 years have been the best years of my life.”
For “Ship” ticket information: 215-563-1100 or azukatheatre.org.
You can reach Len Lear at firstname.lastname@example.org