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Call it the "free night" that lasts an entire month.

Last year in Utah, the Free Night of Theater program, an initiative of the New York-based Theatre Communications Group, lasted one night. This year, the shows go on — way on — stretching throughout the month of October.

So far, nine Utah theater companies have signed on, offering 22 performances of 11 shows on stages from Logan to St. George, said Wendi Hassan, communications specialist for the Utah Division of Arts and Museums.

Here's how it works: After creating a username and password at, select and prioritize your top five selections of Utah theater productions for one free pair of tickets per performance. Wait for an email message notifying you which performance nights you've won. Confirm by email that you will use those tickets, then confirm once more 48 hours in advance of show time that you still plan to attend. Requests for shows you didn't win will be placed on a digital waiting list.

This differs from last year's program, which distributed tickets on a first-come, first-served basis. Last year's program distributed 626 free theater tickets throughout the state.

"We sold out six shows in 10 minutes last year. That's not going to happen again," Hassan said.

Nationally, the program is 6 years old, with more than 130 cities participating. This is the fourth year Utah theater companies have participated in TCG's initiative, launched by Now Playing Utah with backup from the Utah Division of Arts & Museums.

Waiting lists, alas, will be inevitable. "Your tickets may be free, but there's definitely a value to them," Hassan said.

A chance for the public to score free theater tickets is part of the national initiative to expand the audience for live theater. A 2008 national survey by the National Endowment for the Arts found that while musical and nonmusical plays enjoyed a higher rate of attendance among all age groups, attendance still declined by double digits.

The division's survey of respondents for last year's Free Night of Theater program showed that 80 percent attended a show by a theater company they had never tried before, Hassan said. In that respect — broadening the audience for existing theater — the program was successful.

The tweaks to this year's program make it more flexible, as well as more equitable. "It gives people a better chance to get tickets, and it allows theater to add more shows as the month progresses," she said.

The campaign also gives companies a chance to invite audiences to an open rehearsal, which allows producers to experiment with what's working — and what isn't, said Jerry Rapier, producing director for Plan-B Theatre Company. In previous years, Plan-B invited audiences to staged productions of "Radio Hour Frankenstein" and "Radio Hour Alice," an adaptation of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

"Last year's demand made it clear that one night wasn't enough," Rapier said. "It was difficult to find one night that fit for everyone. One month seems about right."

Twitter: @Artsalt —

Free Night of Theater

Nine Utah theater companies will offer 22 performances of 11 shows on stages from Logan to St. George. Here's a list:

"Lady Macbeth," by Plan-B Theater Company, Oct. 25 and 26, 8 p.m., Rose Wagner Center for the Performing Arts, 138 W. 300 South, Salt Lake City

"Azure Barton and Artists," by Cache Valley Center for the Arts, Oct. 18 and 19, 7:30 p.m., Ellen Eccles Theater, 43 S. Main St., Logan

"Dial M for Murder" at Utah Shakespeare Festival, Oct. 20, 7:30 p.m., Randall Jones Theater, 300 W. Center St., Cedar City

"Noises Off!" at Utah Shakespeare Festival, Oct. 4, 2 p.m., Randall Jones Theater, 300 W. Center St., Cedar City

"Winter's Tale" at Utah Shakespeare Festival, Oct. 13, 7:30 p.m., Randall Jones Theater, 300 W Center St., Cedar City.

"Wizard of Oz" at Grand Theater, Oct. 13, 14 and 15, 7:30 p.m., with a 2 p.m. matinee Oct. 15, Salt Lake Community College campus, 1575 S. State St., Salt Lake City

"The Music Man," Oct. 1, 3, 7 and 8, 7:30 p.m., Empress Theater, 9104 W. 2700 South, Magna

"Last Lists of My Mad Mother" by Pygmalion Theatre Company, Oct. 11, 6:30 p.m., Studio B Theater at Rose Wagner Center for the Performing Arts, 138 W. 300 South, Salt Lake City

"God of Carnage" at Salt Lake Acting Company, Oct. 11, 7 p.m., 168 W. 500 North, Salt Lake City

"Grease" at Tuacahn Amphitheatre, Oct. 4, 6, 11 and 13, 7:30 p.m., 1100 Tuacahn Drive, Ivins

"For Colored Girls Who've Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf" by People Productions, Oct. 31, 7:30 p.m. open rehearsal at Sorenson Multi-Cultural and Unity Fitness Center, 855 W. California Ave. (1300 South), Salt Lake City

Info • Visit for the link to Free Night of Theatre.