There’s nothing like seeing a show on Broadway. Of course, that’s not the only place to experience theater. Or the only way to express love for it. That’s been brought home to me in several ways this summer.
The first came when my blogger pal Esther at Gratuitous Violins suggested I read “The Stuff of Dreams” by Leah Hager Cohen. It’s a book about a community theater group outside of Boston called the Arlington Friends of the Drama and its struggles to remain relevant after 75 years, to reach out to more diverse members and audiences and to put on an ambitious production of M. Butterfly. The folks in the company all have day jobs but they love theater as much as anyone hitting a mark on a Broadway stage. And some of them are just as talented but gave up their Broadway dreams for one reason or another. Yet they haven’t given up their passion for theater and so they find a way, in the midst of work and family obligations, to put on plays. Their commitment to the craft is inspiring and the book also made me eager to see David Henry Hwang’s remarkable play again.
My other epiphanette came when a colleague from work invited me to her wedding last month. She married a playwright and the place was filled with joyous indie theater folks, including the indefatigable blogger Parabasis, who writes about and makes plays in New York’s downtown theater scene. Then, as I auditioned podcasts for my recent entry about the best ones to add to your playlist, I kept hearing about all kinds of off-off-Broadway productions that reminded me of all the varieties of theater available in New York. Some of those shows will be part of the New York International Fringe Festival that starts on Aug. 14 and others will be in the New York Musical Theatre Festival that will run from Sept. 28 to Oct. 18. Ticket prices for shows at both festivals, generally under $20 bucks, are priced to attract the widest possible audience.
Smart shows and talents have come out of both these annual events but catching the next Urinetown (which debuted at the Fringe) or [title of show] (which got its start at NYMF) isn’t the only reason to see these productions. Sitting in one of those festival audiences, sharing the joy of live theater with people who are driven to make it and others who have turned out to cheer it on, is a chance to reinvigorate your membership in the community of theater lovers. And you don’t have to live in New York to do that. The theater community isn’t bound by geography but by a shared allegiance to the art form. So wherever you are, go exercise your citizenship and see a show.
Are you going to the Fringe Festival? I have some friends working on new shows there that are supposed to be fantastic!
I'm going to try to dip my toe into the Fringe but the whole thing is so vast that it's hard to know what to see. Which shows are the ones your friends are doing?
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