While Lisner Auditorium directors make an effort to market events to the GW community, most events are attended primarily by District residents, not students.
High prices and scheduling dilemmas have prevented GW’s student theater organizations from using the University’s most prominent and largest theater, leaving students questioning the role of Lisner.
While Lisner attempts to attract students to their shows, Rosanna Ruscetti, the theater’s director, said it is difficult to compete with other venues in the D.C. area for programming.
“The hardest group to target is the students,” said Ruscetti, “because we know they have so many choices for events in the city and they often wish to go out off campus.”
GW has three student theater organizations and none of them use Lisner’s main stage for performances. Kim Anderson, a senior, is the building manager for the Student Theater Council and said the theater is too costly for student theater groups to use.
“One of the reasons we don’t use Lisner is because we’d have to pay money to rent the theater,” Anderson said. “As far as I know, we wouldn’t be able to rehearse in there.”
“We do most of our shows at the Lisner downstage primarily because it is the only space guaranteed for us to use from the University,” said Anderson referring to the smaller theater adjacent to and below Lisner’s 1,500-seat main stage.
The 60-year-old building hosts a variety of events including musical performances, famous speakers and the occasional comedic performance. At this past Saturday’s performance by Madeleine Peyroux, a folksy, blues musician, GW students received a $10 discount on tickets, but the lobby of Lisner was filled with primarily non-GW D.C. residents.
“I feel as if Lisner is part of GW property and I know I’ve seen a lot of students watch Washington locals pass by and get a little confused,” said Cathy Choy, a sophomore. “It’s almost as if it’s a spectacle in their own backyard.”
Kate Shortell, a D.C. resident of 11 years was waiting outside of Lisner to see Peyroux on Saturday night. “I read about it in the (Washington) City Paper and (Metro Weekly) which had a full page ad on this series,” said Shortell. “When you live around here you tend to know about all the entertainment in the city.”
But at least some students do go to some shows at Lisner. Perhaps one of the most appealing shows of the semester for students will be comedian Bob Saget who will perform on the Lisner stage on Nov. 15.
“I’m a huge Bob Saget fan,” said freshman Michael Pope. “So when a neighbor told me he was coming, I went to the Lisner Box Office immediately and bought the last front row seat they had.”
Lisner officials said they are happy to host a show that GW students will be excited to attend.
“For Bob Saget’s show, an outside agency called Riot Act Enterprises applied for the day,” said Carl Graci, the Lisner marketing & events assistant. “They then handle all of their own marketing and collect all of the profits from the show.”