A seat can be more than a place to sit and watch a performance. It can have philanthropic powers. In the seventh grade, College of Engineering Senior Adam Lassman had a realization when he saw an advertisement featuring Ted Williams’s red seat at Fenway, celebrating the longest home-run hit in Fenway. “It signifies that a feat was accomplished,” said Lassman in an interview with The Daily, “and I remember thinking, ‘That’s one seat, and that’s a sea of seats… One seat could make an impact.’”
When he earned a service fellowship during his senior year of high school, Lassman capitalized on the visual and fiscal powers of a seat by creating the Pink Seat Project, “a non-profit organization that works to establish pink seats in entertainment venues, and all the ticket sales from those seats go to local breast cancer organizations.”
In the entertainment industry, often venues are rented by the people putting on the production, and thus the aesthetics of the space are up to their discretion. With permission from the producers, The Pink Seat Project temporarily installs pink seats at entertainment venues for specific performances.
During the span of the The Pink Seat Project’s inaugural year, Lassman installed nine pink seats in his local area of Needham, Massachusetts. The organization was born again at the University during the second semester of Lassman’s sophomore year, after joining Pi Sigma Epsilon, a consulting fraternity on campus.
Since its introduction at the University, pink seats have been installed at performances for MUSKET, the Friars, 58 Greene and an impromptu comedy show organized by a group of friends. For this upcoming winter semester, the organization has established a partnership with Big Ticket Productions.
Students in entertainment organizations on campus have been eager and excited to support Lassman’s Pink Seat Project at their own performances. “It’s students talking with students,” said Carly Yashinsky, LSA Senior and consulting director for the Pink Seat Project.
Through casual conversation with the camerawoman for the PSE promotional video, Lassman learned she was in 58 Greene, a co-ed multicultural a cappella group at the University. She had a performance that Friday, and welcomed his request to put in a pink seat. One of Lassman’s friends took an acting class, and a group of the friend’s peers put together an impromptu comedy performance. “So I put one pink seat there,” said Lassman.
The Pink Seat’s reach throughout Lassman’s time as a University student has extended beyond this campus. “I studied abroad in Australia,” Lassman said. “One day… I walked past the theatre department.” He went inside, looked for a manager and was eventually directed to another building where he met a student in charge of ticket sales. Lassman gave his pitch, the student was on board and that weekend, three pink seats were installed at a student performance of “Romeo and Juliet” at the University of New South Wales.
The Pink Seat Project is expanding in the U.S., too. Students at the University of Colorado at Boulder and a high school student in Miami are seeking to install pink seats at performances in their local areas.
The Pink Seat’s success has been due in large part to the receptivity of the arts communities with whom they create partnerships. Lassman began playing the trumpet when he was young, and at his jazz quartet performances he was exposed to people who seemed to “generally enjoy being surrounded by people.” Lassman he said he knew when starting his organization that “a community like that would be most receptive to an idea like this.”
The arts community is also The Pink Seat’s target audience. Equally as important as its mission to fundraise is its dual purpose to raise awareness about the importance of these procedures. A cure for breast cancer is in the spotlight of the breast cancer conversation, and so the importance of early detection is often overshadowed.
A pink seat in a venue is a visual cue. It is an effective tool for awareness because it doesn’t explain its meaning, it sparks a question. Audience members can find the answer in their programs, and it’s Lassman’s hope that “it sparks them to do a little bit more digging.”
For some, it can spark more than a question or newfound awareness, it can spark a reaction and a connection. A MUSKET alumnus was the occupant of a pink seat at the group’s performance of “Big Fish” in 2016. 45 years earlier, after a dress rehearsal for his performance of “My Fair Lady” in 1971, he went to the hospital with some fellow cast members and sang a rendition of “Wouldn’t it Be Loverly” to his mother. She was sick from breast cancer and nodded off when they finished the song.
“He can come back and see MUSKET supporting breast cancer… it brought him to tears,” Lassman said.
A seat is more than a place to sit, and it serves more than a philanthropic purpose. The Pink Seat creates a culture of care that relies on, and can strengthen, the connectedness of the community of those that enjoy arts, theatre, music and entertainment.