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Shakespeare tix at UCLA were $90, now $1700

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I cannot wish the fault undone, the issue of it being so proper ~ Earl of Kent in King Lear

Last week, news broke over the consumer controversy of secondary sellers like Stubhub.com and TicketsNow being investigated by a few states about music fans not being able to purchase tickets to shows on Ticketmaster, even at the minute and second they go on sale. The problem came up with popular concerts like The Disney Channel's "Hannah Montana."

The LA Times reports today that the same issue is now coming to heads with the Royal Shakespeare Company's (RSC) short visit to Los Angeles starting next week Friday at UCLA LIve where some tickets are selling in the thousands. "King Lear", which will be presented six times through Saturday, October 27 features movie star and world-renowned stage actor Ian McKellen (X-Men, Lord of the Rings). This will be the first time has played with RSC in 17 years and he will also play Sorin for a few performances in Anton Chekhov's "The Seagull" during Lear's off nights.

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The entire run of "Lear" at Royce Hall and most of the seats for the three "Seagulls" in which McKellen appears were sold out July 23, the day that tickets went on sale to the public with a top price of $90, according to David Sefton, executive and artistic director of UCLA Live, which is presenting the performances. "This is obviously the kind of problem that you want," Sefton said. "But it's to the point where you've closed your waiting list and you know you can't even accommodate all the people that are on that, so it is really sold out."

[snip]

Stubhub, a major online ticket marketplace, is now listing single orchestra seats to "Lear" at $936 to $1,706; balcony tickets start at $442. (McKellen's "Seagull" performances are going for a relatively paltry $325 to $548.) On EBay, where bidding for one pair of "Lear" tickets topped $800, a pair of orchestra seats for the final show Oct. 28 has a starting bid of $3,000, with a "buy it now" price of $3,500.

"There's nothing you can do to stop it, and it drives me insane," Sefton said. "I know they're going for $1,500 a ticket on Substub or whatever it's called."

The highest price actually paid for a pair has been $2,106, said Stubhub spokesman Sean Pate, and the average price paid for a single ticket has been $708. The extremely limited number of seats on offer at the website has made the RSC shows "a seller's market," he said. [LA Times]

As for McKellen, he told the Times he was flattered, yet reticent. "So -- well, of course, I don't take it personally. I mean, it is the Royal Shakespeare Company doing 'King Lear' directed by Trevor Nunn. I'm in it, but I mean we're only here for a short period. . . . If we weren't selling out, there would be something wrong."

The usual 10% of tickets saved for UCLA students sold out quickly, but student rush tickets will not be available. Walk-ups might get lucky and tickets are still available for "The Seagull" on October21st, 27th & 28th on McKellen's off-nights when William Gaunt will be playing Sorin. However, with or without McKellen, a Chekhov drama (a personal fav of this author) played by the Royal Shakespeare Company is going to be amazing.

Photo from UCLA Live