Monday, October 20, 2008

Where the Artists Are

New York has a lot to offer a lover of the arts.  I consider myself fairly well-versed in art, dance and theater, but sadly, I often find myself falling back on movies, dinners and drinks for entertainment, and I assuage my feelings of cultural inadequacy with the odd museum visit.  Given that conversations with my friends rarely revolve around the latest and greatest play, I can only assume that I am not alone in my lazy entertainment choices.

While working at my first job in New York, I met Sheila, a fabulous dancer who had somehow ended up in finance.  We used to go to all sorts of performances together; dance, musicals (which I have since decided are not really my thing), classical recitals, plays.  Paul dubbed her my "culture buddy".  

It was Sheila who introduced me to Play By Play, an organization whose goal is to fill unsold seats at various productions.  What does this mean for members of the organization?  You pay $99 per year, and have access to a massive variety of relatively last-minute tickets (many of them are day of, but plenty are week of) for $3.50 each.  Depending on how many seats are available, you have access to between 2 and 4 tickets at a time.  

Now as you might expect, the quality and popularity of the productions varies pretty widely.  It can be anything from mezzanine seats for Chicago or Paul Taylor Dance Company to seats at an amateur production where there is no assigned seating (I have been to these, I do not recommend them.  Although Paul did win a massage in a raffle at the beer and pizza afterparty for one particularly terrible play, so I suppose they have their upsides). 

But it is this variety that makes the organization so great.  It is easy to find out about the big Broadway shows or the plays with the blockbuster stars, but it is not so easy to find out about the the smaller performances at places like the Bleecker Street Theater or the Soho Playhouse.  I have seen fantastic productions at both of these venues through Play By Play, but despite the fact that I walk past both of these venues frequently, I would never have thought to actually attend a play at one of them had it not been for my membership with the organization.  And because the tickets are so cheap, if the show really is terrible you should have no qualms about leaving at intermission (a option Paul and I chose to exercise at a happy-clappy Johnny Cash musical).

Sadly, Sheila moved to Boston a few years ago, so I don't have anyone urging me to get out and explore the arts community anymore.  But now that I'm back in New York after a couple of years away in graduate school, I'm more excited than ever by the City and what it has to offer.  So I'm reactivating my Play By Play membership posthaste, and as I don't relish going to shows on my own, I will be roping everyone I know into going with me.

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