The Sunday Giveaway: 2 Tickets to My Name is Asher Lev

Asher Lev, a brand new play by Aaron Posner, based on the book by celebrated author (and rabbi) Chaim Potok (The Chosen),  started performances Off-Broadway at The Westside Theater just a week or so ago, and officially opens on November 28th for a limited engagement.

And I’ve got two free tickets to one of those limited engagement performances for a lucky reader!

All that you have to do to enter to win is give me your opinion on this:

Asher is one of those rare breeds . . . a commercial Off-Broadway play.  Even the NY Times said that few new plays go down the Off-Broadway road anymore, but rather are raised under the protective umbrella of a non-profit (Asher was reared out of town at the great NP, Long Wharf).

As an audience member, do you treat non-profits differently than commercial productions?  Do you think reviewers do?  Is their a non-economic advantage to going the NP route?

Riddle me that batmen and women, and I’ll pick one commenter and you’ll go see Asher Lev for free!


(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below!  Click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)



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  • Ken: Long Wharf’s production may be the one that’s coming to New York, but MY NAME IS ASHER LEV has been “reared” and seen at a number of not-for-profit companies, including the Arden Theatre in Philadelphia, the Roundhouse Theatre in Maryland, the Theatrical Outfit in Atlanta, and Barrington Stage in Massachusetts (off the top of my head). And no, I don’t think audiences or critics treat not-for-profit productions differently. They are all professional theatre and are judged accordingly, save that people may make mental accommodation based on the scale of the theatre and production. Having had novelist Chaim Potok as a college professor I am very much looking forward to finally seeing ASHER LEV, after missing several of its regional engagements, but please save your contest tickets for another responder.

  • elli says:

    I don’t think that from an audience point of view it makes any difference. People just want god theater. Of course, funding makes a huge difference in some production values, but in the end, it’s the acting and the directing that make a break a production. Love of the arts shows thru even poorly funded craft. I would hope that reviewers carry the same love of theater and would judge accordingly. After all, isn’t it all about the entertainment value in the end? Isn’t that really why Spiderman is still playing? People seem to be entertained, and that’s the bottom line.

  • Kyle Abraham says:

    As an audience member, I do not treat non-profits differently than commercial productions. I care more about the quality of the show than how the production was funded, and I think critics feel the same way.

  • Morgan M says:

    I definitely view commercial and non-profit productions differently but not because they are different inherently. I only view non-profit shows differently because they come with the reputation of a theater with them. I assume most people within the theater community feel the same. But its not who produces a show that makes me get a ticket. It is who is working on the production and where it is coming from.

  • Nancy C. says:

    As an audience member, it makes no difference to me whether a production is non-profit or not. I am concerned with the quality of the production, the performances, the directing, etc. I would like to believe that critics who are held to being objective, unbiased, and independent would take the same view as well.

  • Aaron Deitsch says:

    As an audience member, I rarely even note whether a performance is a non-profit or commercial production. As long as I enjoy the material, I am happy. One non-economic advantage of attending NP productions I can think of is that by doing so, you are helping support the organization that is exposing theater to the masses.

  • John P. says:

    I wouldn’t treat them differently but I do think critics/reviewers do. Why would a critic review a production that is not dependent on commercial success? I don’t think there is any advantage in going the non-profit route, in fact, it’s probably better to treat all productions as commercial and start outside of New York in hopes of attracting interest from the public and critics.

  • EllenFD says:

    The audience doesn’t care where the play got its start; all it cares about is a good story and production. No particular advantage to the nonprofit or the commercial arena. It’s all a crapshoot, anyway–just with smaller bets downtown.

  • liz wollman says:

    No. No. Perhaps.

  • says:

    Good storytelling is good storytelling. Some theatres have more resources than others but it is the storytelling and the overall production that makes all the difference.

  • Arthur Raphael says:

    I do not think of the profit aspect of theaters – not at all. I just go to see a good show and hope for the best. That does not cross my mind ( I suspect i think all off and off off is not profit, generally)

  • Caitlin C says:

    While I am aware of what shows originate from non-profits, this never influences my decision to see a show, or how much I enjoy it.

    I guess the only reason I am sometimes swayed towards seeing non-profit shows first is because, as a student, I often know I can rely on these groups to have reliable ways to purchase reasonably priced student or under-30 tickets ahead of time, rather than putting my fate in the hands of the crazy rush and lottery throngs.

  • Bruce says:

    Ken: I don’t treat non profit produced plays and differently from commercially produced plays. I sometimes don’t even know what theatres are non profits. For example, I didn’t know that Long Wharf was non profit. What’s important to me is the play itself. I think that’s the same for critics.


    As an audience member, I do not care whether a performance is a non-profit or commercial production.
    As a business agent sourcing new shows for my investor clients, I am most interested in moving successful productions from their non-profit source(s) to commercial runs here and abroad.

  • David McKibbin says:

    The only reason I would prefer to see a nonprofit Off-Broadway show is because of the number of commercialized Off-Broadway shows with lower intellectual content (with certain exceptions, such as “Freud’s Last Session” or “Altar Boyz”). Additionally, based on previous statistics, most hit plays and musicals often transfer to Broadway at a faster from NP venues, rather than their commercial counterparts. This can be argued because of “RENT”, “Once”, and “Peter and the Starcatcher” transferring from NYTW, “Avenue Q”, “[title of show]”, and “The Scottsboro Boys” transferring from the Vineyard, and “Next to Normal”, “Spelling Bee”, and “Metamorphoses” transferring from the 2nd Stage Theatre. While these are true statements, individuals should not allow commercial or non-profit status create a bias for or against a show. These shows should be based solely on their production values and potential for success at a higher level, rather than on external circumstances.

  • Yosi Merves says:

    I think a non-profit production has an easier time marketing that production since many companies already have a mailing list and subscription base going into rehearsals of a new production. Additionally, audience members might have a better idea of what to expect from a production based on the producing organization.

    I don’t think audience members discriminate for/against commercial productions in general, I think that depends on the shows competing against each other. However, I do feel that commercial productions tend towards broad comedies (Silence!, Rated P for Parenthood, Old Jews Telling Jokes etc.) or “events” like Stomp!, Fuerza Bruta, Voca People, etc. where as non-profits do more incubation of premieres (Atlantic, Playwrights Horizons) or revivals (Signature Theatre, CSC, MTC, Roundabout) where more emphasis seems to be placed on content. Of course, there are exceptions, “The Other Josh Cohen” at Soho Playhouse being a current example of a show with a limited commerical run which is new, has a clearly defined plot and characters, and is entertaining without pandering.

    I’m not sure if critics treat commercial productions differently than non-profit productions, although they might expect more out of a non-profit production. This is a very captivating question, which I never thought much about before but I like reading the opinions expressed here.

  • Marie says:

    Hi Ken! As an audience member I definitely judge commercial and non-profit theatre differently. The main reason is because I pay a lot of money to see a show on Broadway and to travel there to see it. I expect the quality of the show to be better than anywhere else because they have the money to hire the best people in the business. I tend to be very annoyed when I see a show on Broadway that is poorly done and I have seen a couple that I was less than impressed with. If Broadway expects me to pay $150 to $200 to see a show, than I expect it to be the best show I’ve ever seen!

    I still expect high quality from non-profit theatres and want to see a good show, but if it’s lacking in some areas, I’m not as annoyed by it.

    I’m not sure if reviewers veiw them differently, but I kind of think it should play a part in their thinking. Again, Broadway is supposed to represent the best we have to offer in the theatre world, right? So, why shouldn’t they be held to a higher standard?

    I think there is advantage to starting a new play out in non-profit theatres to give it some time to grow and work out the kinks before taking it to off-Broadway or Broadway. I think most Regional Theatres when they are producing a brand new play have talk backs with the audiences and the audience is aware that it is part of a larger process of making the show better.

    Asher Lev has had the benefit of being produced in a couple of non-profit theatres already and I’m sure those productions were useful in working out the kinks.

  • sherry taxman says:

    I enjoy seeing productions at both types of venues. As far as the treatment by critics: not sure if I have ever noticed a difference. Although non-profit theatres sometimes struggle for funds, and may be limited in the size of play they are able to produce, once they have a “following” they have the ability to sell subscriptions, hold fundraisers, and develop a mailing list for future productions. We see a variety of plays in New York and other cities; choice is usually made based on the production and the cast. Being in a large traditional Broadway house is not the primary reason. Hope this helps. I would love to see Asher Lev! Thanks

  • Anna C. says:

    I think very few audience members are aware of whether a production is commercial or nonprofit in those terms, but what I do think makes a difference is the higher ticket prices that come with commercial productions. If I see a Broadway show for a $25 student or rush ticket, I may be less invested in it than I am in a nonprofit production that I spent full-price on. What matters most in determining expectations is the investment you’re asking the audience to give.

  • Jeryl M. says:

    To me theater is theater. It is more about the cost and what I can afford to see. I am not interested in whether than are in it to make a profit or not. I am not sure what the critics think.

  • Lester says:

    Ken, this is where your data mining should be of use. I asked a few friends — people who go to the theatre regularly but are not in the biz – if they knew whether a production was commercial or NFP in origin. Not one knew or cared. Most people think of producers as the money that gets their names above the title on the playbill. So if it’s institutional or commercial it makes no difference to them. The perception is that it’s all just how a deal is made. We shouldn’t care. How the producer’s get the deal done is up to them. I think you’ve got some real research ahead of you. I’m interested to read your results.

  • ken marion says:

    I do fight an internal battle when considering my choices. It is illogical because I find myself setting my expectation higher for NP productions. I feel internally that a NP must have better material, better everything because it has less money and therefore less glitz to wow me with. Thanks for making me think about this.

  • Robert Haynes-Peterson says:

    I have to say, while I regularly attend off-off-Broadway and Broadway productions, I’ve rarely gone to an Off-Broadway play. They’re almost like the worst of both worlds: The high ticket prices of Broadway paired with the uneven, unpredictable quality of off-off-Broadway make it a deterrent for me.
    That said, without Off Broadway, we wouldn’t have collectively “discovered” gems like Urinetown, Rock of Ages and Avenue Q. I’m personally not aware, as an audience member, of whether an Off-Broadway play is commercially or NP funded, but I am aware whether they spend extensive time somewhere else (Long Wharf, Old Globe, La Jolla, etc) and often tend to give those plays more credence than something that’s just “popped up” in this expensive middle ground.
    On a related note (and why I should win the tix), as a boy growing up in Boise, Idaho, Chaim Potok’s “The Chosen” and “My Name is Asher Lev” were my first peeks into both the world of Judaism/Jewish Americans and into city life, and I was entranced. The emotions, the conflicts and the joys that the kids go through in those books was so touching and real, I felt as if it was me attending Yeshiva in NYC. They made me a better person and opened a door to a whole world of culture, history and diversity I continue exploring today. I would love to see Asher Lev writ large on the stage!

  • Tom says:

    First thought: No. The typical audience member doesn’t know the difference.

    Second thought: Yes– the average off-broadway audience is more educated about NP/commercial, and would seek out subscription rates/cheaper tkts.

    Third thought: Critics shouldn’t care, and neither should audiences. Art is art, and at the professional level in NYC, it should not matter HOW it’s being produced. We should celebrate and support off-broadway in whatever form it arrives.

  • Fred Gilbert says:

    My expectations are different for plays at non-profit vs. for-profit theaters: I expect edgier, more experimental, difficult plays at non-profit theaters, because, with their subscription and more daring audiences, they can afford to take risks. Given the high costs of producing a play anywhere, for-profit theaters have to “play it safe” for the most part, and can’t afford to gamble on the more problematic plays that non-profits tend to support. The willingness to take chances and risks is why I am more likely to go to a non-profit, when I don’t know the playwright or the actors.

  • Phyllis Buchalter says:

    Just saw “My Name is Asher Lev” and it was great (#47 for this year). The person winning these tickets will have a wonderful theatre experience.

  • Alina says:

    I think that reviewers who show such a preference ultimately do the theatre industry a great disservice. Theatre is theatre- whether it takes place in a large Broadway house, or in an off-Broadway house… or on the corner of 42nd and Broadway. Not valuing NP productions as positive contributions to the theatre industry truly limits the impact that the industry can have for the cultural economy of New York City (and please note that I am not referring to a financial economy, but rather one that is formed of cultural experiences). I think that most reviewers understand the value of not-for-profit theatre and how much the NP model can do in terms of mounting quality productions. I believe that reviewers try to approach a production objectively without any pre-conceived notions as to the quality of a piece may be simply because it is produced by a not-for-profit entity. Some of Broadway’s most successful plays in the last few years came from not-for-profit houses in London, and I am pretty sure reviewers responded positively to those.

    I will be the first to admit that a younger me did, in fact, view NP productions differently than commercial ones, however, I am now more in tune with the missions of various not-for-profit houses and understand the value of the work they produce. In my opinion, they are looking to create an impact, not financial gain.

    In terms of audiences, I agree with many of the commenters here. I don’t think audiences care whether they see a NP production or a commercial one. Obviously, NP theatre companies carry a loyal subscriber base, but aside from those subscribers, I do believe audiences aren’t even aware in most cases as to the difference. How many people knew that Hamlet (most recently produced by the Donmar, in conjunction with a few other folks) started out as a NP show? Probably not many, is my guess. The same goes for Red, War Horse, and One Man Two Guv’nors.

    As to whether or not there is value in going the NP route, I have to say that there is, but every reason I can think of ultimately links to a financial benefit.

    Lastly, I just wanted to emphasize that not-for-profit is not always synonymous with Off-Broadway, and I often think people get those two terms confused.
    As to whether there

  • Rosie says:

    I recognize that non-profit theaters may have more scaled down productions, but at the same time they often offer more off-beat, experimental, or outside the box productions that commercial theaters shy away from because of the high risk of financial loss. That being said, I do think that I view non-profit theater with a differnt understanding of their artistic and creative purpose than I view a for-profit production. And, I think the critics, themsleves, hold with the same viewpoint.

  • Roselle says:

    As an audience member, I expect good theater from both non-profit and commmercial productions. What I don’t necessarily expect are fancy sets, elaborate staging, and exceptional costumes, etc. from non-profit theaters–I know they often just don’t have the resources for such frills, so I leave those things out of my view of the production. I look to the quality of the acting, directing, staging, and content for both profit and non-profits and consider the “frills” to be secondary. I think that most critics would do so as well.

  • Erin OBrien says:

    If it’s not apparent to the audience that the show is NP or FP then it won’t make a difference either way. I love our nonprofit off-broadway theaters, but I am also looking forward to Asher Lev.

  • Dara B says:

    As an audience member I am often not sure if a play if for profit or not, and I don’t care either way. I’m there for the production, the story, the experience.

  • Joy Schulman says:

    Though perhaps I am not typical, I have different expectations from non-profit theater. Since there are not investors that need a return, the production has the room to do two things:
    1)Deal with subject matter that their is less of an audience for, or less people will pay to see 2)Reduce prices so more people have access to the theater.

    Sometimes this freedom is abused and a production can be narrowly conceived and poorly cast, and seem almost cult like. But the best non-profits, where my interest matches the interest of those doing the play, can feel like a play created just for me. Though the cast may be smaller, the set not as elaborate the pleasure of seeing actors a few feet from me presenting unique drama is unmatched.

    I love Chaim Potok’s writing, and have read most of his books. My name is Asher Lev was the first book I read by him a long time ago. I would dearly love 2 tickets to see his play; I would happily take just
    one tix because I am not going to be paying attention to anything but the play

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