Loving Theatre on a Budget
Let’s be honest: being a theatre lover can be expensive. As much as we would all love to be able to see every new piece of work as it goes up and make trips to New York every weekend to catch shows, it just isn’t possible for a lot of us. As both a student and someone pursuing theatre professionally (two kinds of people that are stereotypically broke), I’m always looking for ways to enjoy the theatre community that won’t break my bank, and I want to share some of the tricks I’ve picked up with all of you!
1. Community Theatre
This is a tried but true method to enjoying the theatre without spending your rent money on tickets. Community theatres are always putting on shows, sometimes the oft-done ones (like Grease and Hairspray) and sometimes the obscure ones. Either way, it’s a great way to see some new theatre, revisit your old favourites, and just generally enjoy your night out without having to worry about the price of the tickets. Community theatre can sometimes get a bad rep, but more often than not their casts are talented folks who love theatre – same as you!
2. Cast Recordings
Like community theatre, cast recordings are one of the first things I turn to when I’m looking to get my theatre fix. With all of the new shows that have gone up within the past year, there is a treasure trove of incredible cast recordings that are being released (personally, I have Hamilton on repeat). There is a similarly amazing lineup of shows coming in the fall that will, fingers crossed, have their own cast recordings, and then of course there are all of the awesome shows, old and new, that have had albums out for a while. Whatever part of theatre history you want to listen to, these cast recordings are available at your local library (for free!), in CD shops and bookstores, and digitally on iTunes (often at a cheaper price than the physical copies).
Cast albums are truly a gift given to us by the professional theatre community and they can help you feel connected to the shows, even if you haven’t – or won’t – get the chance to see them.
3. Social Media
Social media, for all its other faults, is an amazing way to stay connected to the Broadway community. Most shows now have Twitter accounts, Facebook pages, and Instagram accounts with cool behind-the-scenes photos, as do actors, composers… basically anybody involved in the business. Snapchat is also becoming a common thing – broadway.com has a Snapchat that features their office life and snippets of concerts they attend (like Elsiefest), and some Broadway stars are using them as well (Max Von Essen’s stories are always adorable and entertaining). The use of vlogs is also becoming common as a way to document backstage life, with many actors being asked by broadway.com to shoot behind-the-scenes footage to share with their fans. The best part? Every single one of these social media accounts is free (and some don’t even require an account to use – you can access Twitter and Instagram profiles without signing up).
Podcasts used to be a big thing before they transitioned into hipster land, but they are starting to make a comeback, which is awesome news for us broke folk. My friend introduced me to the American Theatre Wing podcast, a great resource for interviews from everybody in the theatre business (actors, costume designers… you name it, the ATW has probably interviewed them). Earlier this year, Playbill released a list of podcasts you should be listening to, and I’ve spent the past few months testing some of them out. My favourites so far are Downstage Center (the ATW podcast I just mentioned), The Ensemblist, and Broadway Radio’s This Week on Broadway. These podcasts are all free, too, and if you just type “theatre” into the search bar in iTunes, dozens more will pop up. They’re a great way to learn more about the theatre community and feel connected to it without spending a ton of money.
5. Websites/Blogs/Chat Forums
While these can go hand-in-hand with social media, there are some things that can’t be expressed via 140 characters or a simple photo. That’s where the many websites and blogs dedicated to theatre come in. One is the one you’re reading right now – The Green Room, run by New Musical Theatre. Something especially cool about this blog is the fact that they have writers from all over contributing articles, some of whom are composers who want to share their experiences in the theatre world. Other websites, like Broadway.com and Playbill, offer photos, articles, and interviews with people from all parts of the theatre community.
There are also blog sites, like Tumblr, that you can use to stay connected with theatre all over the world. Basically every single show out there right now is being giffed, photo-edited, and shared on Tumblr and it’s a great way to connect to other theatre lovers. Chat forums are another great way to connect – people discuss current shows, share their thoughts on audition pieces, and just generally talk about theatre in a positive way. Broadway.com is one of the larger ones that I know of, and it’s always fun to talk about your favourite shows with fellow fans, even if you’ve never met them in person before!
Fringe festivals are a fantastic way to see new theatre for little money. Many shows get their start at fringe festivals, where they are given the opportunity to show their first drafts to audiences on small stages for little cost. Toronto has a fringe festival that several of my fellow students participate in, and this past year started a musical theatre festival called “Musical Works” to showcase new Canadian musicals. New York, too, has fringe festivals and the incredible New York Musical Theatre Festival to showcase new work. Fringe festivals can be found in many major cities, and their tickets are cheap, allowing you to catch several shows (you can even buy passes to ensure you catch everything you want to see!). They’re a wonderful way to see new work before it becomes big, and they’re a ton of fun to attend, especially with other theatre lovers.
These a just a few of the ways I continue to enjoy theatre on a budget. As my studies progress, I’m sure I’ll find others, but I hope that this list can help you add a bit of theatre to your life, no matter what!