I’ve been a theater nerd since my second grade debut as Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz”. As a kid my family often saw big Broadway shows in Toronto. My first was “The Phantom of the Opera”, in the last row of the balcony, so long ago that that’s all I remember about it. I remember seeing “Beauty and the Beast” when I was so small that the smallest t-shirt they had was practically a dress on me.
Growing up, visits to NYC were often rounded out with a trip to see a Broadway show. In seventh grade I saw “Les Miserables”, not long before it closed, and my senior year of high school featured a birthday trip with TKTS tickets to “The Producers” and (much more fun) “The 25thAnnual Putnam County Spelling Bee”.
So you won’t be surprised to hear that since moving to New York, I’ve gone to see a fair number of shows. I’ve seen big Broadway shows, like “Once” and “Mamma Mia”, but I’ve also started to see more off-Broadway shows. Since April I’ve gone to New World Stages to see “Peter and the Starcatcher”—twice—and to Second Stage Theater, to see Jason Robert Brown direct “The Last Five Years” (soon to be a movie) and to see a new musical called “Ready for Love”. This weekend I went to Pearl Theater to see Shaw’s “You Never Can Tell”, and, to round things out with a Tony-award winning show, last month I saw “Pippin”.
I’ve gone to the theater with friends who are here from out of town, with friends who live here, and by myself. I’ve dressed up and made a night or afternoon of it, or I’ve gotten last minute tickets and the show was what made the night special. Some people spend money on eating out, or concerts, or clothes. Most of my disposable income goes to travel, books, and theater tickets.
For the big shows, I usually go to the TKTS booth at Times Square or the one in downtown Brooklyn. Second Stage has $30 tickets for people under thirty for certain shows. Roundabout Theatre has a similar deal. My friend got us two-for-one tickets for “You Never Can Tell”, and last year she found a deal for $10 tickets to a performance at the New York City Center, for a show in the Encores! theater series or short, staged readings of underperformed musicals.
I love the big flashy shows—I took myself to see “Phantom” not that long ago because I hadn’t seen it since I was tiny and I wanted the spectacle—but the small, short-run shows are different, less expensive, and just as good. And I can see more of them!
Which is the goal, at least for me, because live theater draws you in and makes you think. In high school I did a summer theater camp, and for the final showcase, I was one of two actors reciting the poem that closed the show. As we spoke, all the other actors left the stage, some through the house. The poem, by Edward Bond, is called On Leaving the Theatre:
Do not leave the theatre satisfied
Do not be reconciled
Have you been entertained?
Laughter that’s not also an idea
Have you been touched?
Sympathy that’s not also an action
To make the play the writer used god’s scissors
Whose was the pattern?
The actors rehearsed with care
Have they molded you to their shape?
Has the lighting man blinded you?
The designer dressed your ego?
You cannot live on our wax fruit
Leave the theatre hungry
For a change.