Can’t afford theater these days? For one night it’s free on many stages.


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Once again, theater audiences will have a chance to take advantage of Theatre Communications Group’s (TCG) Free Night of Theater, during which nearly 700 theaters in more than 120 cities and 30 states will offer a night of theater for free, within or near the period of Thursday through Nov. 1.

TCG, a service organization for nonprofit theaters, launched the program in 2005 in San Francisco, Philadelphia and Austin, Texas, and it has since expanded exponentially. The idea, says Terence McFarland -- executive director of L.A. Stage Alliance, which is coordinating the local effort -- is to attract audiences to theaters they may never have visited before.


A handful of the long list of local theaters participating: Burbank’s Colony Theatre Company; Costa Mesa’s South Coast Repertory; A Noise Within in Glendale; L.A.’s Odyssey Theatre; Center Theatre Group’s Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City and Pasadena’s the Theatre @ Boston Court.

Also participating is L.A.’s East West Players, which makes its home at the David Henry Hwang Theater in Little Tokyo (pictured): ‘It’s a really great idea for people who have never been to your theater before. It’s an opportunity to cultivate them ... it’s making theater very, very accessible,’ says Producing Artistic Director Tim Dang.

And one of the things Culture Monster learned while sniffing around East West Players for a comment on TCG’s Free Night of Theater really makes a lot of, er, scents...

While they have not pinned down the details yet, Dang says that for its free night, the theater probably will choose a performance of the West Coast premiere of Kenneth Lin’s ‘Po Boy Tango,’ which opens slightly later than the TCG’s time frame. During the show, which has a cooking theme, the theater plans to pipe into the house the actual scents of traditional Chinese cooking -- ginger, garlic and such.

The effort is reminiscent of Smell-O-Vision, which made its only appearance in movie houses for the 1960 film ‘The Scent of Mystery,’ piping appropriate scents into the audience -- and the later Odorama, used for John Waters’ 1981 movie ‘Polyester,’ which called upon audience members to access smells pertinent to the action via a scratch-and-sniff card (the cards still turn up on EBay).

In the L.A. area, ticket reservations for most Free Night shows begin Monday. For more information, visit TCG’s Free Night of Theater website.

-- Diane Haithman