One of the great insights in David Mamet's "Theatre" is the role of money in making great plays and great audiences. He argues that for an audience to enjoy the play, they have to pay for it. More, they have to pay for each and every performance. In other words, he even argues against subscriptions, which undermine choice:
A subscription audience is a dreadful audience. It is almost inevitably sullen. Why? It has been dragged out of the house. These subscribers are not theatergoers, though they may again be, under different circumstances; they are bargain hunters, who have been sold a bargain. "Six plays for the price of five" sounds like a good idea at the time, but in practice it functions like "all you can eat," where the only way one can make sure one has gotten one's money's worth is to make oneself sick. (95)
He observes that this undermines the sense of adventure that attracts people to the theatre and makes it part of the experience. More, by buying your tickets up front, you eliminate the element of scarcity from the equation -- and if something is not scarce, it is not valued much, if at all (how much, on any given day, do you really value air -- even as absolutely important as it is?). Also, it protects the playwright, actors, and theatre from risk -- and, thus, from learning anything at all. As a result, they cannot (and will not) improve.
"Government subsidy functions similarly" (97), as observed in my previous post.
The audience has to pay, and it has to pay for each and every chosen play in order for it to be a good audience. And a good audience is one that educates an attentive playwright and actors. An audience that hates your work is still a good audience if they sincerely hate it (as opposed to being sullen for the above reasons).
The audience, in the actual theatrical interchange, must have two qualifications: (1) it must have come to be delighted, and (2) it must have paid for admittance. (105)
Why must they have paid? Because "The ticket price is a sacrifice entitling the audience" to enjoy the play:
The audience members must pay. The payment transforms them from critics to entitled consumers. In the car business they teach that "nobody walks on the lot unless he wants to but a car." The equivalent of walking on the lot is payment for admission.
The audience members coming to be delighted, and paying for the privilege, will eke form the drama the enjoyment to which they are entitled. If the drama is not enjoyable per se, they will read the program, go to sleep, or leave. (106)
More, neither the audience nor playwrights "may or can express its desires save through the unfettered operation of the free market" (120). It is one thing to say you liked something to got for free; it is another to say you liked something you paid for.
Let me give an example. My brother is an artist, and when he was younger and just beginning as an artist, he had the romantic notion that he was going to give all of his art away. People would value his art because it was inherently valuable. I told him if he really wanted people to value his art, to charge hundreds or thousands of dollars, and then it would be valued. Well, he mostly ignored me, and gave many paintings away. Yet, he also sold a few pieces to a few friends. This set up what turned out to be a perfect experiment of his theory vs. mine. As it turns out, when he went over to the homes of friends he had given art to, he could never find it displayed; but those who had paid for their works displayed the works prominently. My brother stopped giving away art piece after that.
If you fill a theatre with critics or students, you will never get the feedback you need to be a successful actor or playwright. You need a paying audience. Only a paying audience will create art that will last the ages.