"The next day my email was flooded with good feedback; everyone wanted to know when we’re going to do it again." - Linda Yancey
Working Theater’s Special Constituencies Initiative (SCI) program offers discounted tickets to working people in New York. The goal of Special Constituencies Initiative is to change the face of the traditional theater-going audience to reflect the true racial and socio-economic diversity of New York by removing the barriers that keep non-traditional audiences from the theatre.
To fulfill its mission, Special Constituencies Initiative identifies specific groups that are underrepresented in the Working Theater’s audience and then cultivates relationships with the labor and community organizations that serve these groups. This allows us to address concerns relevant to them in our productions and programs. Through the generous support of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the North Star Fund, we are able to offer $10 – $15 subsidized tickets to our target audience.
Because of the Special Constituencies Initiative, more than 75% of The Working Theater’s audience members are working people from all five boroughs of New York City. Many of these individuals live on a modest wage, and rarely, if ever, experience live performance.
Tens of thousands of working people have taken advantage of the Special Constituencies Initiative program, and we are proud to have worked with such organizations as UNITE!, Local 1199/SEIU, Local 371 AFSCME, CWA Local 1180, Transport Workers Local 100, Local 300 NPMHU, the Caring Community, Association of Hispanic Artists, Center for Workers Education, Cornell School for Industrial and Labor Relations, Central Labor Council, and Latino Workers Center.
If your organization would like to participate in Special Constituencies Initiative, or if you want to learn more about the program, please contact Mark Plesent at: firstname.lastname@example.org
“Our trips are usually to things like baseball games,” says Linda Yancey, recording secretary and chairperson of the Women’s Committee of Local 300 of the National Postal Mail Handlers Union, “but that’s not necessarily what everyone likes to do. Going to see Port Authority Throw Down gave our members a chance to get together outside the workplace and do something different.”
In November 2006, Yancey and more than 100 of her co-workers from the tri-state area attended a sold-out performance of the play under the auspices of The Working Theater’s Special Constituencies Initiative, which offers discounted tickets to unions and other organizations. The event was a huge success, says Yancey: “The next day my email was flooded with good feedback; everyone wanted to know when we’re going to do it again. Our members work hard and many of them just don’t get out of the house once their workday is over. Our Women’s Committee wanted to give them the chance to get a little dressed up, come to the city and have a fun evening.”
The NPMHU represents more than 50,000 mail handler craft members in postal facilities across the United States; Local 300 is the organization’s largest branch with more than 6,000 members in the tri-state area. Three years ago Yancey, who is a mail handler in Queens, and her fellow shop stewards recognized the need for targeted advocacy on the behalf of the union’s female membership and inaugurated the Women’s Committee. “The Postal Service has changed a lot over the years. Women make up a significant portion of the work force here now, but no one was focusing on the challenges that face female workers, particularly those related to family care and specific legal issues, including domestic violence and child-custody matters. Because we have an ongoing dialogue with management and a close relationship with our members we are in a good position to negotiate on their behalf to make the intersection of their work and home lives more manageable.”
Port Authority Throwdown was a particularly apt choice for the NPMHU audience, since the play explores the social, racial and religious clash of cultures in post-9/11 New York City. “Our union membership used to be primarily Caucasian,” says Yancey. “Today we have more and more Indian and Asian members. It was good to see the racial diversity of our real lives reflected on the stage. The Working Theater’s Special Constituencies Initiative truly benefited our members; we’re all looking forward to the next show.”