Feb. 6, 2014/For Immediate Release

Media Contact: Lauren Whitaker, 336-734-2891, whitakerl@uncsa.edu



 Volume of tickets increases by 43 percent, revenues increase by 85 percent for Fall 2013

WINSTON-SALEM – The University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) is celebrating a record-breaking trend in attendance at its performances. During the 2013 Fall season (August through December), the school recognized an increase of 43 percent in volume of tickets issued, and an increase of 85 percent in revenue over the same period in 2012.

“It’s exciting and significant for many reasons,” said Executive Producer Katharine Laidlaw, who assumed oversight of performance marketing in Fall 2012, and initiated a comprehensive campaign to drive audience development. “Performances are a critical platform for telling our story, for showcasing what we do and why it matters,” she said.

“More people attending translates to a greater awareness of UNCSA and a deeper understanding of our mission. It strengthens our message and carries it farther, helping us to recruit promising students and talented faculty, and to inspire support of our institution,” Laidlaw said, adding that in a challenging economy, additional revenue is welcome.

Revenue to date for the 2013-14 academic year is $87,236, compared to $47,150 for the same period during 2012-13. Ticket sales for the period were 12,998 this year compared to 9,060 in 2012-13.

Revenue from most UNCSA performances at the Stevens Center and main campus locations pays for marketing and promoting the productions, and for staffing to support the venues, from box office staff to ushers.

Revenue from special productions like The Nutcracker and all-school musicals like Oklahoma! and West Side Story also supports student scholarships. This year, the school projects $220,000 from The Nutcracker ticket sales will be distributed in need-based scholarships. An additional $25,000 of Nutcracker revenue will fund maintenance of the Stevens Center. Concession and merchandise sales conducted during the Nutcracker run earned more than $17,000 to benefit programs such as the high school parent support organization and the senior contemporary dancers’ showcase performance in New York.

Laidlaw said 2013 was the third record-breaking year in a row for Nutcracker attendance, with more than 16,500. More than 15,000 people saw the production in 2011 and again in 2012, up from 13,000 in 2010. This year, six of nine public performances were sold out or nearly sold out.

Among the other Fall performances, including the School of Music’s performance of Verdi’s Requiem and the School of Drama’s production of the musical She Loves Me, more than half were at capacity or near capacity.

For UNCSA, the term “sold out” means no tickets are available, or only single seats remain. The school gives away, trades or discounts a significant number of tickets to The Nutcracker and other UNCSA productions as a goodwill gesture. Students, faculty and staff receive complimentary tickets to most shows. Reduced-price and free matinees are offered to school groups and children who qualify for free school lunches.

Laidlaw said it is difficult to estimate the value earned through complimentary or reduced-price tickets. “It is a huge benefit to employees of this school to get free tickets. They are tremendous audience members and it’s very important they be invested in the students’ learning outcomes,” she said. “It is also tremendously valuable for a dance student to see a Shakespearean play, or attend a concert of works by student composers. The third-grader who attends a Nutcracker matinee through our outreach efforts could be performing in it one day.”

Some tickets are offered to business partners in trade for goods and services that support the performances. Those who receive the complimentary tickets from their employers are likely to be inspired to attend more performances, Laidlaw said. “But even if they never purchase a ticket from us, we have shown them what we do. They know the caliber of talent that we develop here. They come to value the School of the Arts and associate it with the quality of life offered in Winston-Salem.”

Revenue aside, the educational value of filling seats is immeasurable, according to those who oversee UNCSA’s training programs. Carl Forsman, Dean of the School of Drama, said actors learn very little performing for each other, or in an empty theatre. “Our students leave here to perform on the world’s most prestigious stages. They learn, here in Winston-Salem, how to reach an audience,” he said. “That lesson is crucial for actors.”

The audience is important for dancers as well, said Dean of Dance Susan Jaffe. “In both ballet and contemporary dance, we are telling a story,” she said. “How can you tell a story if there is no one there to receive it? The more people who come to see our performances, the better the learning outcome.”

Music Dean Wade Weast agreed. “It’s one thing to play or sing beautifully in the practice room or in the ensemble rehearsal, but quite another to do so for an audience. We train students to perform at a very high level and to deal with performance anxiety; so it raises the bar even higher when the audience is large,” he said, adding “And, who doesn’t like a standing ovation?”

According to Laidlaw, robust ticket sales are a win-win situation. “There is a palpable exchange of energy between audience and performer that is quite vital to the experience. Our audiences are fortunate to hear and see young artists on the cusp of very exciting careers,” she said. “What could be more thrilling?”


As America’s first state-supported arts school, the University of North Carolina School of the Arts is a unique stand-alone public university of arts conservatories. With a high school component, UNCSA is a degree-granting institution that trains young people of talent in music, dance, drama, filmmaking, and design and production. Established by the N.C. General Assembly in 1963, the School of the Arts opened in Winston-Salem (“The City of Arts and Innovation”) in 1965 and became part of the University of North Carolina system in 1972. For more information, visit www.uncsa.edu.