Book of Mormon—the Broadway musical from the creators of South Park—opened to incredible reviews, won nine Tonys, and is so popular these days that its website suggests you should start looking for tickets for February 2012. Scalped tickets for shows this week are going for around five hundred dollars online. The theater holds a daily lottery for twenty or so rush tickets for that night. Between May 10 and June 14, 13,000 separate people put their names in the lottery. Book of Mormon’s Twitter account has more followers than Orlando Bloom’s. These facts show that people are crazy about Book of Mormon, but no one in Rockefeller College and Mathey College could have anticipated just how crazy.
Tickets to Book of Mormon were available for freshmen, sophomores, and RCAs of Rockefeller College and Mathey College. News of the ticket sales were broadcasted through reminder emails the week before the actual ticket sale date, informing students that the $25 Broadway tickets would be available at 7:30 AM on Monday, September 19, for Rocky students and at 7:30 AM on Tuesday, September 20, for Mathey students. The College Councils have been providing students with outings to Broadway shows and other cultural events for years. In May, the College Office (administrators) obtains a list of shows that the College Council (students) decides its peers would like to see. Rocky’s College Office often coordinates with Mathey’s. The offices then buy tickets to the shows—often twenty-four per college. However, for shows like Wicked, they usually get forty-eight tickets per college. For Book of Mormon, twenty-four tickets were available. According to current Rocky College Council co-chair, Jay Hashop, his experience in receiving tickets usually works like this: “For really popular tickets—like Wicked or Lion King—you usually get people arriving as early as 6:00 AM. They hang out in line until a trip chair shows up to give out tickets. Less popular shows may not even sell out by 7:30.” Hence, few students could have expected the fanatical sight awaiting them as they arrived at the Mathey Common Room the morning of to get ahold of their tickets.
Aryeh Cohen ’15, who considers himself a lover of theater, showed up at 4:30 AM on Monday hoping to attain a ticket, only to find out that the room was already filled with sleeping bags, pillows, and more than the twenty-four students allowed to go on the trip. “I’ve seen fifteen to twenty Broadway shows, “ Cohen said. “Seeing Book of Mormon was my big goal. I waited three times before to get in through the ticket lottery with no success.”
What had happened was that a small group of sophomores decided to spend the night to get the tickets and arrived at Mathey Common Room, comforters and sleeping bags in tow, at 9:30 PM on Sunday night. Independently, a group of freshmen from Entryway 10 of Holder Hall decided to camp out for tickets. According to Nicholas Luzarraga ’15, he and a friend had been planning all week to camp out for tickets, and, as they were getting ready, their roommates and hallmates said they wanted to join. At around midnight, when the freshmen arrived, Kevin McKee ’14 (de facto sophomore ringleader) said on his Facebook status that people were already lining up for tickets to Book of Mormon. Hashop says he saw McKee’s status and went by the common room to laugh at the people sleeping there, but when he saw how many were doing it, he ran to get a comforter.
When more people started coming, McKee decided that making a list of people with the times that they arrived would be the fairest way to decide the order for receiving tickets. It was announced that if you put your name on the list, you were allowed fifteen minutes outside Mathey Common Room before the tickets were distributed or you forfeited your spot. In less than an hour, the twenty-four available tickets were accounted for. Any student arriving after 12:50 AM was placed on a waiting list. Because of this, people generally stopped arriving around 1:00 AM. Students that weren’t privy to spending the night in the Mathey Common Room started arriving as early 4:30 AM, hoping to wait in line for three hours for a ticket, only to discover that they were too late. Certain students (including both authors of this article) waited until 7:30 AM, even though they were faced with hard evidence that they wouldn’t get tickets. At 7:30 AM, McKee read the names of the first twenty-four students on the list and told them to get their method of payment ready. A member of the Rocky College Council, Lucy Lee, then accepted the payment and had them put their name and phone number on an official list. They would get their tickets on the bus the day of the show.
After word spread about the difficulty of attaining the Book of Mormon tickets, Mathey students quickly learned to wait in line even earlier than the Rockefeller students before them. Cordelia Orillac ’15 and Jessica Liang ’15 were two who arrived well before midnight on September 19. Orillac began waiting at 10 PM, securing a ticket, while Liang arrived one hour later at 11 PM and left when she discovered that there were not enough tickets for her and her friend to go. “An RCA came out and told us there was one more ticket left. We decided to give it to the next person instead,” Liang recalled.
Why did Orillac and Liang decide to go so early for tickets to Book of Mormon? “I heard that it’s an amazing musical,” Orillac said. “I hadn’t heard of it, but everyone else said it’s good,” Liang said. Regardless of their reasons, the fact remains that some of the Broadway shows—How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, starring Daniel Radcliffe, for example—offered by the residential colleges have become a lot more popular this year. When asked what time they would start waiting for tickets to upcoming Broadway shows, Cohen and Liang both proposed 10 PM while Orillac said that she would scout out the scene and see if people are in the common room before waiting herself.
The College Council caught a backlash for the way tickets were given out. According to Hashop, several Rocky students voiced angry complaints about what had happened. “They said it was unfair, that the people made the list for themselves and that it was unofficial. They complained that people showed up ridiculously early in the first place. People were mad at the College Council and it made me unhappy.” “But I was glad to get a ticket,” he added. Hashop thinks the college council will definitely have to change the way things are done to account for what happened with Book of Mormon.
Suggestions include putting a lottery system into place and setting a cap on how early people can begin waiting. Karen Sisti, Rocky College Administrator, explained that they had decided to buy twenty-four tickets before Book of Mormon won all of its Tonys—nine, if you’ve forgotten, which is “a lot,” according to Ava Geyer ’15, who ostensibly watches the Tonys. “We’ll definitely be getting forty-eight per college next year,” Sisti added.
Was this so much of a game-changer? An immensely popular show had no shortage of people willing to camp out to see it. It seemed natural to preserve the order people had arrived to ensure that the more dedicated people got their tickets. But to someone who received notice that the tickets would be sold at 7:30 AM only to find they had all been accounted for at 1:00 AM the night before by people sleeping on couches and not waiting in a physical line—it seemed pretty unfair. What those eager Rocky students did was revolutionary, as evinced by Mathey’s quick duplication, but we seriously doubt this will change the way all such tickets will be distributed.
The main problem people had was that they didn’t realize people were sleeping in the Mathey Common Room. Students may wonder how early others will go or what’s to stop them from making a list whenever they decide, be it a week in advance. However, the list is bounded by how long people are willing to stay in one room. It entails sleeping on couches in the common room and thus sacrifices one night’s worth of sleep. Students were willing to do it this time, but they are much less likely to wait eight hours in the common room to see Wicked, which, though popular, nowhere reaches the frenzy that Book of Mormon brought upon students. In the future, our guess is that the College Council will be more conscious of popular musicals and draft more definite rules.
Though one of this article’s initially thwarted authors did manage to get tickets by Friday. He/she is not commenting on methods used, but does want to mention that the show was freaking hilarious—everyone should try to see it next year.