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Why the end of the Pop-up Globe isn’t the end of the world

There’s been a major push to keep the Pop-up Globe in Auckland. Sam Brooks says it’s deeply misguided.

If you’ve been lucky enough to walk around Central Auckland over the past three months, then you’ll have seen a large white silo building sitting in the carpark that you might’ve tried to park in when the Civic was full.

This silo plus naked scaffolding is the Pop-Up Globe. 2016 marks four hundred years since William Shakespeare (10 Things I Hate About You, My Own Private Idaho, West Side Story) died, and to celebrate this fact, a replica version of the theatre that premiered many of his works has, as the name suggests, popped up.

It’s been a pretty huge success. The space has hosted not only its mainbill shows, Romeo and Juliet and Twelfth Night, but pre-existing shows like Titus and Antony and Cleopatra. It’s even played host to a show that popped up in protest to the largely all-male casts of the mainbill shows. Seventy thousand people have seen shows there in three months, which is almost as many people saw Batman vs. Superman on opening weekend here.

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And, as a full-page ad in the Herald on Sunday gleefully declared, the Pop-Up Globe is extending its season a further two weeks to May 8. Then, as the organisers have stressed, the Pop-Up Globe must go away, because it is the Pop-Up Globe and not the Forever Dome.

But if a few petitioners have their way, it might stay around forever. (It won’t! For a lot of reasons, it won’t. Resource consent is a complicated thing, you guys. But for the sake of argument, let’s get to humouring.)

Change.org, the site that is currently hosting a petition to get Justin Bieber to cover the song Jungle by Drake and another one to stop Miley Cyrus from being a judge on The Voice, is also hosting a petition to get the Pop-Up Globe to stay around forever. As of this writing, nearly six hundred people have signed, which is almost as many people as it takes to get to full capacity of one show at the Globe.

I’ve taken the time to collate some comments and provide some alternatives to the things they suggest. As a disclaimer, I am fairly neutral on the Pop-Up Globe. I’ve seen three shows there, I’ve got friends working there, and I like Shakespeare like I like a KGB: If I’m in the right mood for it.

I’m also a person who exists in the theatre ecology of Auckland, an ecology that the Pop-Up Globe very carefully sits outside (literally) and many of these comments are just as worrying as they are funny.

So here we go:

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Absolutely. We’re on the same side here. Let’s get coffee and talk about the arts.

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Your inner life is terrifying to me. Let’s never get coffee.

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Money is a barrier to people if they want to see live theatre. That’s a sad fact.

To see the theatre that reaches your everyday person’s eyeballs most frequently, that is, theatre put on by people who can afford a low five-figure rate to advertise in The Herald on Sunday, you’re looking at paying upwards of fifty dollars. We’re talking something put on by Auckland Theatre Company, something at the Civic, or something that’s touring from overseas.

The Pop-Up Globe is not exempt from this. To their credit, you can get $10 on the day of the performance to stand in the groundling pits. (These also give you the best view.) There are also $15 tickets for wheelchair patrons which includes a guest ticket, which is a very cool and commendable thing.

However, the most expensive tickets are $165, which is roughly what you could see one (1) Beyonce for. This ticket price makes me uncomfortable, not only because I could never afford it, but because it makes it very clear that the person who is paying this is paying as much for the spectacle of the Pop-Up Globe as what they’re seeing.

I think it’s morally questionable to sell tickets to a show you could’ve seen for $15 last year at Unitec for ten times that. In that instance, you’re not selling the show or the quality of the show, you’re selling tickets to whatever is on in that space.

It also makes me uncomfortable because, as these comments show, it perpetuates the idea that theatre is expensive all of the time.

This is not true, which leads me onto my next point.

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The Basement. Q Theatre. The Herald Theatre. Auckland Town Hall. The Civic. The Aotea Centre.

TAPAC. Te Pou. Mangere Arts Centre. The Pumphouse. The Hawkins Centre.

This is a non-exhaustive list of the theatres in Auckland. The first six are within about two minutes walk of where The Pop-Up Globe currently is.

The first two are literally spitting distance from The Pop-Up Globe.

The Basement Theatre has theatre programmed for eleven months of the year. Since The Pop-Up Globe has opened, they’ve had plays, they’ve had dance shows, they’ve had live comedy, they’ve had performance art, they’ve had just about everything. You can pay about $20 to see a show there, and the place programmes some of the best theatre in the entire country. There’s a new show every week, and some weeks there are two new shows.

Q Theatre, which lots of people probably walked through to even get to The Pop-Up Globe, is no different. It’s a little bit pricier, but the work is more established, more international, and what you pay in ticket price you get back in flashy award-winning toilets.

Auckland has a rich theatre culture! It’s affordable! It’s available! It’s existed before The Pop-Up Globe, existed during The Pop-Up Globe and will exist after The Pop-Up Globe. If you’re interested in a ‘theatre-centric’ Auckland, go and see theatre!

It’s there for you. These shows don’t have ATEED (Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development) funding to throw around on lots of marketing. These are people usually putting their shows on out of their own pocket or with Creative New Zealand funding.

So please, commenters! Close your change.org tab and open a www.qtheatre.co.nz tab or a www.basementtheatre.co.nz tab and go wild.

Or if they’re too central for you and you’re worried about parking because there’s a big silo taking up where you used to park, then check out a theatre closer to where you live. Most of those theatres are programmed more weeks than not, and they will be delighted to take your money.

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Hey! Get out of here foreigners! You have no say here. Especially Avril, who is metal as all hell.

(I would also definitely attend the Pope Up Globe and would support it as a permanent installation in Auckland.)

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As someone who has rehearsed and performed a play in that car park, I am personally offended by this.

This is actually a good defence of The Pop-Up Globe, and one that I would love to see examined and explored by both sides of this debate. I think there’s room for The Pop-Up Globe to become a permanent space, not exactly in this incarnation, and definitely not in that location, and definitely with more consultation with the theatre community.

The reason why The Pop-Up Globe was met with such consternation and suspicion by the arts community is a lack of transparency. It’s never been clear where the money is going, who the people involved with it are, how it all happened so quickly and why the season collided directly with the Auckland Arts Festival, easily the biggest event in the Auckland arts calendar.

I think there’s room for The Pop-Up Globe to continue as a space for hire, not necessarily for Shakespeare, but for the shows that could work well in that space to use the spectacle of it as a jumping off point.

Titus is a brilliant example of how that could work. It was a tried, true and tested work with sell-out seasons and rave reviews preceding the season, and it accepted the challenge of the space and grew to meet it.

If the Globe returns in whatever incarnation, it would be exciting to see what other uses it could have. This season has already experimented with a concert of Shakespearean sonnets and travelling companies using the space, but it would be amazing if the space could acknowledge that theatre is still living and breathing.

Theatre exists beyond Shakespeare, commenters.

There’s a whole world out there who would be happy to have all seventy thousand of you because it’s hard to pay your rent if you’re making theatre that isn’t Shakespeare.

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This is either a brilliant piece of shade insulting Auckland or a sad indication of a man’s life.

You make the call.

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