Line vs. Lottery

Grasshopper Night was great this year. Barbara Chase’s golf cart made a surprise appearance. ManSLAM dropped the beat even better than regular SLAM. And we finally discovered the identity of the “Secret Diary” author (not really). Too bad the new “lottery” system of distributing tickets prevented some students from seeing the show, right? I would disagree. Despite the recent grumbling on campus that the lottery system is an unfair way of handing out tickets to the student body and their families, I’m of the opinion that it’s the best way to solve a problem with no “perfect” solution. Under the old system, tickets were distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis, with students often waking up earlier than six in the morning to wait in line at the G.W. box office. Each student could get up to three tickets for a performance (or combination of performances) of his or her choice. And that’s the way it went, until each and every ticket was gone. This year, however, Student Body President Tantum Collins ’08 worked with the theatre department and Techmaster Frank Pinto ’08 to implement an online lottery system to distribute the tickets, with the hope that such a system would make the process of getting tickets fair to all students, and would eliminate the necessity to wake up before the sun was out in order to wait in lines that could stretch from the G.W. lobby all the way back through the Elson Art building. No matter how you look at the situation, though, there are elements of the dilemma that can’t be solved simply by changing the way by which tickets are handed out. There are four performances of Grasshopper Night. Tang Theatre has roughly 350 seats, which means that 1400 folks are going to get tickets to the big night. Account for the fact that we have about 1100 students, and let’s assume that they each bring two parents, and you’ve got 3300 people wanting to see the show. And that’s not even counting siblings or faculty and staff members. See the problem? Sure you do. Whether we go with the lines or the lottery, there are going to be people who come out of the process empty-handed. Before the implementation of the lottery system, countless ideas had been tossed around in response to this issue. One of them, which, for all its flaws, could have worked, is the idea of having Grasshopper Night performed on two consecutive weekends. The weekend before Parents’ Weekend could feature two performances, one on Friday and one on Saturday. One of these shows could be reserved for Seniors only, and the other could be open to any other students, creating a total of 600 more seats to the biggest show of the year. This way, one of the major complaints about the current system (that many Seniors don’t get the chance to see their last Grasshopper Night) would be a moot point. The next weekend, Parents’ Weekend, the usual four shows would be performed. The question still remains of how tickets would be distributed for these performances, but the hope would be that, with more tickets available in the first place, the demand for them would be slightly lessened. The main—and very convincing—argument I’ve heard in opposition to this proposal is that it would be too strenuous a schedule for the performers and technicians. There’s no denying it would be hard. But would it be a fair trade-off for the reduction of the stress that goes hand-in-hand with every Grasshopper Night? I believe it could be. And besides, I’ve never been in Grasshopper Night, but it sure looks to me like the performers are having a blast. Maybe doing it two extra times could be fun, despite the more taxing schedule. In any case, we decided to go with the idea of a lottery system. In last week’s Phillipian, Jeff Abboud ’08 argued that this system is flawed, saying that it gives no preference to those students who “really” want the tickets (and who, ostensibly, were the ones willing to wait in line at six in the morning to get them in past years). Now, he says, the problem is that “people who truly desir[e] tickets and didn’t get any will now be forced to show up to Grasshopper Night 45 minutes early in order to try to walk in the day of the performance.” But isn’t that just another way for students to prove how much they really want to see the show? Students with a burning passion to partake of the festivities should be more than willing to sacrifice an hour of their time to make sure they get on the wait list, especially if those were the students willing to sacrifice hours of sleep in previous years to wait in line for tickets. And believe it or not, the Theatre department didn’t turn away a single person from the wait list this year. That’s right: if your name was on the list, you were going to see Grasshopper Night. Another one of the benefits of the lottery that has gone relatively unnoticed is that it makes it easier for new students to get tickets. Just imagine if you were a Junior in any year but this one and you didn’t realize how great the demand was for Grasshopper Night tickets. No one told you that you needed to set your alarm for 5:30 a.m. if you wanted to entertain even a hope of seeing the show. In other words, you were all but out of luck. This year, though, the information about obtaining tickets was sent out early in emails, and there was no “race” to enter the lottery. This was undoubtedly a benefit for the new members of our community, who have as much of a right to see Grasshopper Night as four-year Seniors do. When all is said and done, the lottery system is a good solution to a difficult problem. I am arguing this from personal experience – I entered the lottery, and I didn’t get tickets. But I got on the wait list (no, I did not get tickets from my father!), and I got into the show, as did everyone else who was on the wait list with me. So for now, this system is a good one. And even though it would be a challenge for the performers, maybe it’s worth considering the idea of adding a few extra performances in the future for the weekend before all the parents get here. That way, we can all enjoy the show.