The new management team of the Great Passion Play is getting ticket sales for the 2013 season off to an early start, and is incorporating local businesses into the process, business owners learned Tuesday night.
On Thursday, Jan. 31, a workshop will be held at the Inn of the Ozarks Conference Center to introduce an online ticket-selling system for hotels and other businesses. The workshop, from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the Walnut Room, is designed for employees who will handle online ticket sales through the system, which will compute the discount and credit the business for part of each sale.
"We want people who are selling tickets to be able to make money," said Dick Kelsey, GPP's new executive director. "We are raising the commission and lowering the price."
Tuesday's meeting, held at the dinner theater building on the GPP grounds, drew 30 people, including owners and managers of hotels, cottages and caverns. Kelsey also announced a yard sale and auction on the play grounds on March 15 and 16. Anybody can set up a table to sell items or advertise a business at no charge, he said. Large donated items will be auctioned, and smaller items sold at the yard sale, he said.
"If the weather is bad, we'll have it inside the buildings," Kelsey said.
Bad weather and the problem of refunds has been an issue with playgoers in the past, one the team is remedying by offering an "anytime ticket" that people can purchase and use for any performance, Kelsey said. Tentative plans call for allowing local residents to attend the play free for certain periods, like the first and last month of the season, Butler said.
"Watch our facebook page," he said.
Kelsey told business owners the goal is to sell double the number of tickets over last year, 50,000, even though the season has been reduced from 110 performances to 80. The play had 60 tours booked last year, he said. This year, the office has already had 100 calls asking about bookings. The Gospel Station Network, which is partnering with the production, has already spent $1,400 of $100,000 worth of donated advertising, and almost $50,000 has been raised to fund the 2013 season, which starts May 3.
"This duck is flying," Kelsey said.
Joe Gunnels, who sells group package tours through his business, Joe Gunnels Tours, said he has sold half a dozen Passion Passion tickets. Butler said that in previous years, tickets weren't even on sale in January.
"We're light years ahead of last year," Butler said.
On Wednesday, Kelsey started taking the message on the road by meeting with area pastors at Immanuel Baptist Church in Rogers. Meetings in churches across four states are planned, he said, to build up interest in the play.
"If we bring in 100,000 people this summer, which we think we can, your businesses are going to benefit," he told business owners.
Other changes: the name of the play has reverted to the Great Passion Play from the name adopted in 1984, the New Great Passion Play, when a new score was composed and recorded by the National Philharmonic Orchestra of London. Improved pacing in 2012 pared 15 minutes off the previous length of two hours, Butler said, and sound effects added. New for 2013 is a pre-gospel show before the play starts, with hot dogs, drinks and snacks available during the pre-show, Kelsey said.
People attending Thursday's ticket-selling workshop are asked to bring laptop computers. Vendor identification codes will be issued at the workshop, which will be repeated in a few weeks. For more information about the Great Passion Play, go to www.GreatPassionPlay.org.