Chicagoans have a highly refined palate for theater, which venues like the Goodman and the Steppenwolf reward with several world-premier plays every year. Denizens of smaller middle-American cities such as Tulsa, Okla., often prefer a simpler season that includes, for example, a Shakespeare drama, a Broadway musical, and the annual production of A Christmas Carol.

“More sophisticated markets seek out more innovation,” says Glenn B. Voss, a professor at the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the...

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