Tuesday, February 28, 2012

theatre notes. it's a fucking bargain. why don't you go?

I spent about $1200 going to the theatre last year. I saw about 36 plays. This averages out to about $100 a month, three plays a month, spending roughly $33 per play. (Including parking). This is cheap. You'd be hard put to have a nice dinner out for $33 (once you add in tax and tip and, yes, parking), unless you're talking a $6 bowl of pho or a $12 burger at your local pub. I started weighing the cost of things against the price of play tickets. I could get takeout for lunch a couple days a week, or I could see a play. I could try that fancy new restaurant, or I could see two plays. Before I knew it, my dining table was piled high with programs and my dashboard was littered with parking stubs.

Some plays were in tiny converted coffee-house-garage-theatres (seating maybe 35-50 patrons), which might cost $10-$20. The mid-size theatres (200 or so seats) will run you about $25-$35. The large theaters will probably cost you about $35-$50. (I leave out the Paramount or the 5th Ave, because I don't generally go to Broadway musicals). You could do what I do and get an ACTPass from ACT, which lets you see almost everything produced on its four stages, year-round, for $25 a month. You could get a Today Pass from the Seattle Rep, which lets you call up the box office on the day of and grab whatever seats are open; it works out to about $22 per ticket. Live theatre is a fucking bargain. Forget trying to get into the latest hot spot to open in an already crowded neighborhood. Forget ingredients you can't pronounce or indifferent waiters or mediocre food. Go to the theatre.

Sure, the quality of stage productions varied as wildly as any group of restaurants. None were terrible, but some were extraordinary. And I still love going out to eat; that part of me will never go away entirely. But what live theatre gives me is the sense that the people who create it do it out of love. Out of passion. You can't half-ass things when you are swinging from a set of jungle-gyms disguised as Sherwood Forest (as in Robin Hood) or hurling insults like ninja stars, silent but deadly when they hit (anything written by Harold Pinter). You can't anticipate what the audience will be like, night after night, or even what the feeling onstage will be. There's some chemistry between the stage and the audience, as I've said before, which changes every time, which makes or breaks the night.  But oh, what a thrill that is, when the audience finds that energy and just gets it.

We go to the theatre to hear stories. To laugh, or to cry, when some truth hits unbearably close to home.  To rejoice when hope is regained or love is found. To feel a sense of connection to our neighbors in the audience and the actors onstage. This is mostly possible because so many actors in Seattle have been working here for decades. It gives me a jolt of excitement to see a familiar face, whether it's someone I have loved for twenty years or two, which has never gone away. All this keeps me coming back. And so should you.

A few things I am looking forward to this spring:

Holy Days, from New Century Theatre Company

Red, at Seattle Rep

Spring Awakening, from Balagan Theatre

The Pinter Festival at ACT later this summer (although as an ACTPass holder, I am naturally very excited about the entire upcoming season).

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