I’m not much for New Year’s Resolutions. It seems that I always start off all gung-ho at the beginning, but by February, I’ve lost my drive to achieve whatever it was that I set out to do. But this year, I’ll be different, because instead of vowing to change something about myself, I’ve decided that I will strive to do more of something that I love to do. This year, I resolve to see more shows.
My motivation for this particular resolution is not simply for my own selfish enjoyment, nor is it for a budding (but not yet lucrative) career as a theater critic. I will stick to this resolution because it will a) support the economy and b) support the arts.
Let’s face it. The recent past has not been kind to regional or Broadway theaters. Many of Connecticut’s own non-profit theaters are struggling for additional money, with grant money and regular donors seemingly tapped out in our struggling economy. Add to that the erroneous thinking that going to the theater is a frivolous expense, and you will find consumers spending their few entertainment dollars in what may seem to be a less exalted manner.
I believe we need to challenge this thinking. I have always believed that societies need art to survive. We need to think, to be challenged, to be presented with new ideas and yes, even to just be entertained and be allowed to take our minds off our troubles. We need to expose our young to dramatic and performing arts, so that they will learn the rich heritage of music and theater that the world has to offer and will be able to perhaps carry on the tradition for future generations. We need to keep the theater world alive with the dollars needed to put on the productions and the dollars needed to carry on the tradition of expanding our knowledge about our world and about ourselves through performing arts.
So how can we do this, when our own belts have been tightened, and our wallets constrained by day-to-day living expenses? This will not be an easy resolution to keep. Luckily, there are ways to help keep live theater affordable even in these lean times.
First off, try to stay local. There are church groups, high schools, colleges, and local community organizations that not only educate youngsters in theater arts but also put on some fine shows that are usually highly enjoyable, if not highly spirited. Beyond that, many community and regional theaters also offer shows for children and adults. Connecticut residents can experience live theater at The Quick Center, Edgerton Center, Downtown Cabaret Theatre, Long Wharf Theatre, Yale Rep, Curtain Call Theater in Stamford, The Bushnell in Hartford, The Shubert Theater in New Haven, The Goodspeed Opera House, The Ivoryton Playhouse, The Fairfield Theatre Company, The Palace Theater in Waterbury, The Hartford Stage, Playhouse on the Green, Stamford Center for the Arts, Square One Theater, Westport Country Playhouse and many others. The possibilities are endless.
If you feel you have to go to New York to see a show, try an off-off Broadway or off-Broadway show. And look for those not-so-hidden discounts that are available to make those tickets more affordable.
One of my favorite discount ticket sites is www.broadwaybox.com. This site offers discount codes for Broadway and off-Broadway shows. Some restrictions may apply, but it has always worked out well for me. You can also find discount codes at websites like playbill.com and www.theatermania.com. All you have to do is present the code at the box office or to Telecharge or Ticketmaster, and you will receive the discount.
In addition to ticket discounts, some theaters offer student rush tickets or rush tickets for anyone the day of the performance. Some theaters also still offer SRO – Standing Room Only tickets. You can visit talkinbroadway.com or playbill.com for more information.
If you don’t mind waiting in line for tickets, you can always visit one of New York’s famous TKTS booths. The Theatre Development Fund operates three TKTS Booths in New York City:
1. The Times Square Booth sells day-of-performance tickets only.
2. The South Street Seaport Booth sells tickets to evening performances on the day of the performance, and matinee tickets the day before.
3. The Downtown Brooklyn Booth sells tickets to evening performances on the day of the performance, and matinee tickets the day before as well tickets to Brooklyn performing arts events.
All locations sell tickets at 50%, 40%, 30% and 20% off full price (plus a $4.00 per ticket service charge, which helps support other TDF services and programs). Availability and ticket inventory change throughout the day and at the discretion of individual productions.
The Theatre Development Fund also offers discounted tickets to TDF members. To qualify for TDF membership, you must belong to one of the following groups: full-time students, full-time teachers, union members, retirees, civil service employees, staff members of not-for-profit organizations, performing arts professionals, and members of the armed forces or clergy. When you join, you will be asked to supply TDF with proof of your eligibility. There is an annual fee to become a member (usually $30) but the TDF membership will pay for itself the first time you purchase tickets. After you join, you will immediately have access to discounts of up to 70% off full-price tickets to hundreds of live productions each year. Visit www.tdf.org for more information.
Another strategy for stretching your Broadway dollars is to take advantage of Kids’ Night on Broadway. These nights will be February 2nd, 3rd and 7th in 2010. For these performances, young people ages 6 – 18 can see a participating Broadway show for free when accompanied by a full paying adult. As of this writing, participating shows include: Billy Elliott, Chicago, Fela!, Finian’s Rainbow, Hair, In the Heights, The Lion King, Mama Mia!, Mary Poppins, Memphis, Next to Normal, The Phantom of the Opera, Ragtime, South Pacific, West Side Story, Wicked , Avenue Q and Stomp. The complete rules and information for Kids’ Night on Broadway can be found at www.kidsnightonbroadway.com/.
I’m sure there are many more ways to get to see a show, but it is always well worth it. I’ve been going to shows for years and have loved it so much that I started writing about it. For me, nothing beats seeing a live performance, even the clunkers (I have seen my share of those)! Maybe this year, my New Year’s Resolution will be one that I will be able to keep. Hopefully, despite the lean times in which we live, I will be able to continue enjoying the theater. Hope to see you there!