Freestyle Love Supreme – hip hop improv

How to have an interesting night in the city? Have friends with good ideas. Last Friday night I went to see a show at Joe’s Pub with my friend and a friend of hers. It was at 11:30 at night. People who know me know that I am almost always asleep at 11:30 at night, and I like it that way. But it was my friend’s birthday week, and the show she suggested sounded intriguing, so I drank a couple of cups of cocoa and got ready for a fun night. 

The group is called Freestyle Love Supreme, and for you musical theater fans out there, it was started by Lin-Manuel Miranda (composer-lyricist and star of In the Heights) and Anthony Veneziale (producer for In the Heights). For those of you not intrigued by that, it’s a five-man improv hip hop improv group. What does that mean? Well, like any improv group, FLS takes cues shouted out by the audience or drawn from a hat and works up skits on the spot. Unlike most groups, these skits involve a beatboxer, freestyle rapping, and singing — or as their site says, “instantaneous riffs and fully realized musical numbers.” These guys are fun, funny, and talented, and so are their keyboardist and percussionist.

Some highlights: An impromptu R&B song based on a couple in the front row, where when asked what he liked about her, he mentioned something about the fact that she cooks for him — and instagrams their meals. A song about body pillows, composed entirely of true stories, including one by special guest James Monroe Iglehart, who stopped by after a night onstage at Aladdinin his Tony award-winning role as the genie. And finally, a song based on a woman’s recounting of her day, complete with a fairly accurate depiction of the personalities you encounter riding public transportation in NYC.

Look, there’s no way anything I tell you about this show is going to match how hilarious it was, so you can either watch the Pivot special on Youtube, below, OR, you can sign up to attend a free taping of their upcoming Pivot show next week. You have to commit to being there for four hours, but, they’ll pay you $20 — and I can tell you that my friend and I are hoping to go, even after spending money to see them. Check it out here!


"King Lear", but really, Shakespeare

I went to see “King Lear” in Central Park this week (shoutout to my friend who stood in line and got pooped on by a bird before scoring us tickets), and it was really well done. John Lithgow played an aging king whose reason has slipped, whose outbursts are violent, and whose daughters no longer want to indulge him. The cast was very strong and the relatively simple set was jazzed up by projections against the back wall.

It’s long – three and a half hours – and about two and half hours in I started to get a little antsy and wishing people would start dying. But I enjoyed the performance, and if you like the tragedies, you should go if you can!

Well. Enjoyed is maybe the wrong word. I’ve always known that I’m a comedies and romances girl – they say that tragedies sometimes start with weddings, and comedies usually end with them, and I like things to end hopefully, full of possibility. So swap out “enjoyed” and swap in “was engaged by”. “King Lear” and “Macbeth” and other tragedies I’ve seen make me think about good, and evil, and human nature, and it’s good to get philosophical once in a while.
But the comedies make me laugh, of course, and the wordplay is so very clever, and when the play ends the good end happily and the bad unhappily, and since life isn’t usually so clear cut it’s nice when theater can be.
I have fond memories of the Shakespeare classes I took in college. Most have to do with reading of the plays themselves, since I had a distressing tendency to doze in lecture classes, especially when they took place after lunch. Involuntary, I promise! But I loved curling up with one of the plays – even one of the histories! – for a few hours on a Friday afternoon and being transported somewhere else.  
If you can go see “Lear” – or any other play, especially by Shakespeare – go, and be engaged, and philosophical, and laugh at the funny parts, and tell me all about it afterward.
I think this should be my last theater post for a while, guys, unless I go see “Newsies” before it closes next month. Guess I’ll have to go have some different adventures soon!

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, and Violet, or, more theater-going

I went two whole weeks without posting about theater. I mean, I posted about a concert, but come on, I gave you the break you needed, right? So to make up for lost time, have a doubleheader post about two very different musicals.

First, Violet. It closes on August 10, so if this sounds interesting, get thee to the (virtual) box office, and if you’re between the ages of 18 and 35, sign up for HipTix and get the $25 tickets.
Violet is a revival, but this is the show’s first time on Broadway. It almost made it back in 1997, when it opened, but the reviews weren’t great and it didn’t transfer. At the Theater Talk my friend and I heard before the show, we learned that the composer of Violet, Jeanine Tesori, is now the artistic director for Encores Off-Center. I’ve never gone to an Off-Center show, but I’ve seen the regular Encores! shows, and really enjoyed their production of Tick, tick . . . BOOM! a few weeks ago, so I’ll have to check it out. Both programs involve putting on short-run staged readings of musicals which don’t get performed often.
Anyway, when Tesori became artistic director, people suggested that she stage Violet, but she felt that would be weird. They convinced her to do a one-off reading, though, and apparently the energy in the room was so fantastic that they knew there was something here. And then it came to Broadway, with star Sutton Foster in the title role.
Violet is a young woman traveling on a Greyhound bus in 1964. Facially disfigured in a childhood accident (though the scar is not shown), Violet is going to see a televangelist so she can be healed. Violet is the story of her travels, of the people she meets, of life on the cusp of the civil rights movement – and the story of the girl she was, and her relationship with her late father. The music is lovely, the staging was colorful and fun, the performances were stellar, and the story made me think. I had a few quibbles with how things wrapped up, which I’d be happy to discuss with anyone who wants to, but I’m so glad I went!
A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder is a completely different show. Tongue-in-cheek, over-the-top, too-clever-for-its-own-good – all are apt descriptions. At the show’s opening, Monty, the Earl, is in jail for murder, and is writing his confession. He starts at the beginning, back when he was a poor boy whose mother has just died and a stranger comes to tell him that there are only about eight people between him and his relative, the earl.
And Monty starts thinking. So you can guess where things start to go. The relatives in the line of succession, men and women alike, are all played by Jefferson Mays. His quick costume changes and character changes are fascinating to watch, and each is distinctive – and usually, but not always, a terrible person. I rooted for Monty even as I was appalled at his actions. There’s love, and there’s murder, and there are funny lines and scenes and songs. There were even a few twists and turns I didn’t see coming. The set, which included a stage-upon-a-stage, was gorgeous, and while my friend and I had to lean forward a little from our seats in the front row of the balcony, we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.
Since Gentleman’s Guide won the Tony this year for Best Musical, it should run for a while yet. If you’re trying to decide between this and Violet, go see Violet, and then go see Monty murder some people later in the summer. You won’t regret either.
I have a few more tickets in my future – including Cabaret in September, and plans to see King Lear in Central Park in the next few weeks – but I’m always looking for suggestions. What shows have you seen lately that you’d recommend?

"Just Jim Dale", or, a life story in ninety minutes

Look, this blog has been a little theater-heavy lately, I know. And I’ve got tickets to… three more shows in the coming weeks, so I can’t promise there won’t be more show posts. But, all of the shows I’m writing about should be relatively easy to get tickets for (at least compared to “Macbeth”and “Much Ado About Nothing”).

The one I want to tell you about today is called “Just Jim Dale”, it’s put on at the Laura Pels Theater through the Roundabout Theater Company (which means if you’re under 35, sign up for HIPTIX and you can get two tickets for $25 each), and it’s a one-man show.
Who is Jim Dale? Well, he has had a long and varied career – and the show is a testament to that – but for me I knew him as the guy who did all the Harry Potter audio books (which I’ve yet to listen to, but want to!), and as the narrator on the short-lived but wonderful show “Pushing Daisies”.
He is seventy-eight years old and he has more energy than I ever have had.
You might think I’m kidding, but I promise you, Jim Dale dances and sings and jokes his way through a ninety minute show, assisted only by a pianist, and it’s just one fun moment to the next – even when he’s performing the closing monologue from a very serious play.
It doesn’t matter that I didn’t know his work outside of the two things I’ve mentioned – he takes you through his career and hits a lot of hysterical high points, sometimes singing songs he composed or performed, sometimes showing pictures of his younger self, and always, always tying it back to his roots in the British music hall tradition, which was fascinating.
HIPTIX only requires that the person who purchases (and picks up) the tickets be under 35 – your guest can be any age, so I took my dad, and we both really enjoyed it. We also enjoyed talking about it afterward. I’ve gone to the theater alone before, and it’s fine, but going with someone and talking through what worked and what didn’t, what you loved and what you’d already forgotten, is a total bonus.
“Just Jim Dale” runs through August 10 – if you’re looking for an inexpensive but really fun night out (and you or someone you know qualifies for HIPTIX), I highly recommend it! In the meantime, I’ve got an itch to rewatch some “Pushing Daisies”…

"Much Ado About Nothing" in Central Park

I’ve been to see a Public Theater production twice, and both times involved an element of luck. The first time was two years ago, when a friend of mine won a Twitter contest through her intimate knowledge of musical theater history and quick Twitter skills, and I was lucky enough to be her plus one to see “Into the Woods”.

The second time was last Friday.

I’d just been to see “Macbeth” at the Park Avenue Armory, and in my post I mentioned that I wanted to see the Shakespeare in the Park production of “Much Ado About Nothing” soon, as a palate cleanser. My friend who went to “Macbeth” with me felt the same way and suggested we try to get standby tickets on Friday since it was still early in the show’s run. She planned to take a half day at work and would be able to get in line early.

But on Friday, things weren’t looking good. It was pouring rain as I left for work and the weather report promised a thunderstorm right when the show was supposed to begin at 8 p.m. My friend had more work to do than anticipated, we didn’t win tickets through the online lottery, and neither we nor the other friends who wanted to come with us felt like standing in line in the rain. So we came up with an alternate plan: meet at the theater after work and see what the line looked like.

We walked up to the Box Office around 5:15, and there was no line. Literally, there were no people standing outside. It wasn’t raining, but the sky was beginning to look threatening, which might be why there were still tickets left at the box office. They were single seats, all near each other, and we took the tickets and went to find food, still a bit shocked that we’d gotten tickets without having to stand in line at all.

The sky looked increasingly ominous, so after picking up some plastic ponchos at Duane Reade, we picked a restaurant at random and found ourselves eating at a bistro called Sugar and Plumm. It was expensive, as most sit-down places on the Upper West Side near the Natural History Museum seem to be, and frankly a little weird. It was candy-themed – you could buy chocolates and pastries to go, or order sweets like crepes and waffles off the menu all day, and there were candy mosaics on the walls – and as time went on, we saw a fair number of parents with small children. There was also a cocktails menu, which seemed like a weird choice for a place catering to young families – or maybe a perfect choice?

Anyway, it started to rain as soon as we sat down, full on pouring rain that quickly became a thunderstorm. By the time we headed back to Central Park at 7:30, the rain had let up slightly, though it rained harder as we got to the theater and stood under an overhang, waiting to go in. Sometime after 8 p.m. they let us in and we hovered near our seats, hoping to get some together. There were plenty of empty rows, and soon the ushers told the audience that we could move down and fill in empty seats if we wanted to. We chose seats ten rows or fewer from the stage, and center, and settled down to enjoy my favorite of Shakespeare’s plays.

The actors came out, talking and singing in Italian, as the prerecorded message about the history of Shakespeare in the Park was played (their reactions to hearing voices from on high were priceless), and as things got started we realized it was no longer raining. It stayed dry for the rest of the night.

The actors spoke the first line or two of the play in Italian (a little surreal for me, as I mostly understood them) before switching to English, and then put on a simply wonderful production. Lily Rabe as Beatrice’s voice was a little husky and sharp – I couldn’t tell if she always spoke that way, was putting it on for the character, or was actually sick, but it bothered me for a while and then I grew used to it. Her chemistry with Hamish Linklater’s Benedick, a floppy-haired, heavily bearded, goofy thinks-he’s-a-lady’s-man charmer, was great, and they really brought out both the humor of the play and the more serious side.

I liked Claudio, which rarely happens and which made his eventual betrayal of Hero that much more frustrating, and I disliked Don Pedro – which was great! So often he’s played as this affable prince who has everyone’s best interests at heart, and to see him played as more conscious of his status, and less trustworthy (Claudio’s fear that Pedro has woo’d Hero for himself seems almost plausible, especially given Benedick’s reading of the situation, which is usually played more tongue-in-cheek than it is here).

The set was beautiful but simple (see photo!) and the staging similarly straightforward, letting the words and story, as put across by these fabulous actors, be the clear focus of the production. I loved every minute of it – unsurprising, since it ismy favorite, but when you’re as attached to something as I am to “Much Ado”, there’s always the fear that a production will make a hash of it. Not this one – I highly recommend it, and I’m hoping to go again soon!

Have you been to see any productions in the park? Do you have tips or tricks for getting tickets?

PS I’m now crossposting these to Tumblr at (as well as reblogging other  people’s interesting NYC-related posts). Have a Tumblr? Follow me! 🙂

"Macbeth" at the Park Avenue Armory

On Tuesday night I had what I think should be called a Theater Experience. I went with a friend to see “Macbeth” at the Park Avenue Armory, and it was like no production I’d ever seen. I’d never been to the Armory, but I’ll definitely be going back. “Macbeth” is only on through June 22, and on the Armory’s site it looks like the rest of the run is sold out, but there are a limited number of $19 day-of rush tickets available.

The play was staged inside the Armory’s enormous Drill Hall, and from the moment we had our tickets scanned, we were asked to step into the world of the play. We were given wristbands – maybe not exactly period-appropriate – with the name of a clan stamped on them and directed to meet up with other members of our clan in a few minutes to head into battle together.
We wisely made a beeline for the bathroom, since the play is two hours without an intermission, and made it just in time to meet up with other members of the Macduff clan and head into the Drill Hall.
This paragraph is where you should stop reading if you think you might see the play and have the full experience for yourself, without spoilers. I knew (because the ticket site told me so) that the floor of the stage would be dirt and that it would rain at some point in the show, but there’s much more to the set than that and you may want to be surprised. If you do, know that while I had some quibbles with some of the choices made in direction and staging, I highly enjoyed it and was really glad I went.

Still with me?

All right.

We stepped into the Drill Hall, and it was dark. I grabbed my friend’s arm so we wouldn’t get separated, but as we shuffled along with the crowd there was more light and we could see giant bleachers in the distance, perhaps half a football field away. To get there we followed a stone path across a heath.

The blasted heath, to be exact, complete with dirt and grass and small standing stones and a witch. That’s right, one of the witches was hanging out on the heath as we made our way toward the stage. We were guided up the stairs and to our seats, where our (cute) Macduff clan leader handed us programs with Macduff printed on the cover on what I presume is the Macduff plaid. We found our seats, where I discovered that backless bench seating, regardless of how soft the cushion-top is, does not work well for people as vertically challenged as I am. Even sitting far forward, my feet weren’t quite flat on the ground.
It took a long time for each clan to be led to its seats, so the play started late and we had plenty of time to examine the set. At the heath end of the stage were large standing stones, reminiscent of Stonehenge. At the other end hung a cross above an altar covered with hundreds of candles. The candles were tended by a woman who prayed there throughout the first scene and was revealed at last to be Lady Macbeth, played by Alex Kingston.
The ceiling of the Drill Hall is high, and the darkness created the feeling of actually being outside, a sensation reinforced imperfectly when “thunder, lightning and… rain” graced a battlefield as the three witches looked on – imperfectly, because thankfully it only rained on the fighting actors, not on the audience.
Kenneth Branagh as Macbeth was fascinating; my friend pointed out afterward that he creates two personas, the controlled military leader and the passionate husband-turned-murderer. She called his public persona slick, and noted that he gets slicker as time goes on, to compensate for the madness that lurks beneath. The gap between his two faces widens alarmingly, until, interestingly, the moment he is told that Lady Macbeth is dead. At the moment the madness collapses, as does the slick certainty, and he is merely a sane, exhausted man, ready for the end that is so clearly coming for him.
Alex Kingston began her Lady Macbeth a bit shrilly, more a nudging wife than a temptress toward evil, but the contrast between her brash confidence and encouragement of her husband and her mental collapse as what they have done sinks in, as she watches her husband see things that aren’t there, was beautifully done.

At two hours, the production was swift, though it did get bogged down a little in long scenes with secondary characters in the middle. That said, many of the secondary characters were wonderfully portrayed, especially Macduff (but perhaps we were biased). I was especially interested to watch servants crisscross the stage during private conversations between the Macbeths. When the gentlewoman and the doctor are watching Lady Macbeth sleepwalk and the gentlewoman points out that if she now knows what she should not, it is because Lady Macbeth has said what she should not, it made me wonder whether their servants already knew their deeds, and had had to decide whether to turn them in or stand by silently, knowing how quickly fortunes change in this world.

“Macbeth” is not my favorite Shakespearean tragedy – for that I’d have to go with “Hamlet” – but it’s compelling and terrifying to watch ambitious people do terrible things in pursuit of power and be destroyed, but not before taking many, many others down with them.
There’s more to talk about, so if you’ve read this far and have decided to go see “Macbeth” at the Armory, tell me when you’ve been, and we’ll chat. Unsure and want to know more? Check out the trailer, and the New York Times review. As for me, I think I’m finally going to see “Sleep No More” this summer, because after seeing Ethan Hawke’s “Macbeth” a few months ago and this one this week, I’m sort of on a “Macbeth” kick.

But I want to get tickets to Shakespeare in the Park first – “Much Ado About Nothing” is the perfect palate cleanser after all this tragedy.

A night at the cabaret

No, not that Cabaret, though I hope to go see it sometime this fall. This was at The Duplex, a cabaret and piano bar in the West Village, and last night I sang on its stage.

Let me back up. I’ve mentioned before that I sing in a choir here in New York called the New York City Master Chorale. As a fundraiser, the choir decided to host a cabaret show, with a lineup of singers from the choir singing solos, and sell tickets to our friends and family. Back in February we had the first round of auditions, and despite the fact that my solo singing has been limited since I left high school eight years ago, I decided to try out. And I got cast!
My fellow singers and I arrived around five o’clock yesterday for a sound check, where we were taught how to raise and lower the mic (two fingers and a light touch were all that was needed), reminded to bow before leaving the stage, and sang enough of our songs to get the right levels on the mic. We then retreated upstairs to a green room, and after dropping off our bags, my friend and I went off to grab a slice of pizza before the show.
When we came back, it was time to put on makeup, switch sandals for heels, and practice our patter. The theme of our cabaret was “What I Do For Love”, specifically our love of music, and I sang a song called “A Trip to the Library” from the musical She Loves Me. It is, as I told the audience last night, a song about stepping outside your comfort zone, even though you’re a little nervous, and having something wonderful and unexpected happen – which is exactly what we performers hope will happen every time we step out on the stage. It was the perfect song for me to share after such a long hiatus as a soloist, especially because it’s just so darn funny.
From the tiny stage of the cabaret, I couldn’t see most of the 70 or so people clustered around tables. I could see the front row, which mostly consisted of members of our choir – helpful, when you’re nervous! – and nothing else, not even my three friends who were in the audience. But if I couldn’t see the audience, I could certainly hear them! Maybe it was the alcohol, or the fact that they were all there to support friends, but our audience was having a fantastic time. They laughed at every single one of the jokes in my song. I walked on the stage nervous. I walked off it wondering why the heck I’d waited so long to put myself out there again.
The Duplex hosts cabaret shows every single night. It has sing-a-longs and karaoke, too, and while last night was my first time there, I’m sure I’ll be back – even before next year’s cabaret! I’ve had the performer experience, but now I need to find out what it’s like to be in the audience. I’m sure it’s just as much fun!
Has anyone else been to the Duplex, or any other cabaret-style venues? What did you see there?
PS Another piece of mine on The Toast! This one’s about an amazing trip I took to Wales to check out some of the sites of The Dark is Rising books.

A lovely night at Cinderella

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted about going to the theater, so let me tell you about the first show I saw in 2014. It’s a little musical called Cinderella, and it’s currently starring Carly Rae Jepsen and Fran Drescher, at the Broadway Theater. An unlikely pairing, maybe, for a Rogers and Hammerstein musical that originally starred Julie Andrews (more on that later), but I can’t comment too much on that because I didn’t see Carly Rae Jepsen. According to the playbill, her understudy, Jessica Hershberg, goes on every Saturday evening and Wednesday matinee, and I saw the show on a Saturday night. Ann Harada, one of the stepsisters, who was the original Christmas Eve from Avenue Q, also wasn’t in it that night; her role was played Laura Irion (who was great!).

I can’t review Carly Rae’s performance, but I can tell you: Jessica Hershberg was fantastic. Her voice is stunning, her dancing is gorgeous, and her earnest Ella is lovely, especially against a backdrop of a new book, with modern updates and humor. Fran Drescher as the stepmother plays it about as you’d expect – her voice carries the weight of the humor and there’s not a lot of nuance to her delivery, but her posturing and pronunciation is over-the-top and made me laugh.

I have to say, I was a little skeptical of the new book. I was in Cinderella in high school, and I’ve watched the Julie Andrews movie more times than I can count. The movie, by the way, is the original production. Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote the musical to be live broadcast in 1957, with Julie Andrews as its star, and drew over 107 million viewers. I believe it broke records for the most number of viewers at the time.

So this production, the musical’s first on Broadway, had a lot to live up to. While the new book wasn’t perfect (there’s no punishment, really, for the show’s villains, and we lose some fun moments because in this version the prince’s parents are dead), in general it’s a lot of fun! Cinderella has more agency and is even an activist, talking to the prince on behalf of her social activist friend about how the country needs change. It’s a good change to the plot, but at times it gets a little convoluted.

Some of the added songs (which as far as I can tell are all from other Rodgers and Hammerstein shows, or were cut from other shows of theirs) are not great. “Me, Who am I?” was fun, and “Loneliness of Evening”, from South Pacific, is lovely and engaging. But “He Was Tall”, which was cut from The King and I, is short and really not necessary when we’re about to hear the fabulous “When You’re Driving through Moonlight” and “A Lovely Night”, one of my favorite parts of the whole musical. Do lyrics get better than “And below them is a row of light windows like a lovely diamond necklace in the dark”?

The song “There’s Music in You”, performed beautifully by Victoria Clark, is from a movie in which Rodgers and Hammerstein played themselves, and the lyrics are a little hokey and cliché. “Someone wants you, you know who. Now you’re living, there’s music in you.” Really?! What a waste of the fairy godmother’s gorgeous voice. This would have been a perfect moment to reprise “Impossible”, but instead we’re stuck with a ballad that slows the action.

But at the end of the day, my measure of whether I think a show was good tends to be, am I laughing or crying at the end? Did it affect me strongly enough to provoke one of those reactions in me? I laughed all the way through Cinderella – and watched big-eyed as the fairy godmother transformed from a beggar woman to her dazzling self in front of us, and when Ella had not one but two dazzling onstage costume changes. The set is grand and ambitious, but it works perfectly with the story being told.  I loved when Ella decides to leave behind the slipper and give the prince a chance to find her; when her kind stepsister hugs her and wants to help; when the prince is nervous and talks too much.

If you’re looking for a show to see with your mom, or your little cousins or nieces, or, really, anyone who enjoys Rodgers and Hammerstein music or a good fairy tale, check out Cinderella. Carly Rae and Fran are only in it through April 4, but I’m sure whoever replaces them (I’m crossing my fingers for Jessica Hershberg to step into the role full time!) will keep the same spirit of fun!

Anyone seen any good shows lately?

On going to the theater

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
Is cruel

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.