Students begin to flock to Lisner events

Students last week wrapped around Lisner Auditorium to buy tickets for upcoming shows – a rare sight on 21st Street.

The sudden increased popularity of the venue is because of several national celebrities that will be appearing in the next month – including comedian Stephen Colbert.

Lisner officials said this recent shift is not evidence of a push to get more students to attend events at the auditorium, and that it remains a venue for the community – rather than a venue only for students.

Colbert is the host of a television show on Comedy Central called “The Colbert Report.” His performance is sponsored by the Smithsonian Resident Associate Program, a branch of the Smithsonian museum.

Other acts this fall include author David Sedaris, radio host Garrison Keillor, comedian Steve Martin, comedian Stephen Lynch, Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart and British pop icon Annie Lennox.

“We have to catch (the acts) when they’re at an affordable, mid-size level,” said Rosana Ruscetti, director of Lisner Auditorium.

Ruscetti said she is happy that some acts draw big student crowds, though she is primarily concerned with drawing a diverse crowd of artists.

“We don’t want to duplicate what the Kennedy Center is doing,” she said. “At the same time, we’re not the 9:30 Club.”

D.C. is a “venue saturated market,” Ruscetti said. This means that different acts are necessary to appeal to the Foggy Bottom community instead of just the student body – who often see celebrities at other venues around the city.

“We have good community relationships,” Ruscetti said, adding that Lisner often hosts smaller local acts.

Lisner is almost entirely funded by ticket sales, so expensive acts are not always a logical idea unless they can guarantee a sold-out crowd.

“(Lisner) is the largest venue we have access to,” said Christine Cimino, public affairs manager for the Smithsonian Resident Association Program.

“We know it’s a bonus when we have someone like Colbert who will be popular with the student body,” Cimino said.

Cimino said the Smithsonian Resident Association Program puts aside 100 tickets to be sold at student prices for events they put on at Lisner – something they are not required to do.

This summer, several high- profile events took place at Lisner, including a forum with three presidential candidates broadcast on CNN and a speech by candidate Hillary Clinton.

Ruscetti said she is currently in talks with CNN to host an event sometime next year but could not provide any details.

“My goal is to get students to come to every show and get excited about every show,” said Carl Graci, director of marketing for Lisner.

Senior Julia Marshall, who was waiting in line for Colbert tickets last week, said she wishes more things appealed to a student audience.

“A few more things could be student-oriented, but it’s good that they bring in (local) musicians,” Marshall said.

Jill Pitzer, a junior, said Lisner is more of a local venue.

“I consider (Lisner) more of a concert hall,” Pitzer said. “I don’t really feel like it’s a GW space.”

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