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Room for Improvement

Filichia offers 50 suggestions on how you can have a happier theatrical life in 2006. logo
The year-end issue of U.S. News & World Report was headlined "50 Ways to Improve Your Life in 2006." None of the suggestions had anything to do with theater. Oh, there was "Singing Helps Keep Your Brain in Tune," which cited a Seniors Singers' Chorale that did a Rodgers and Hammerstein medley -- but that was about it. May I augment the list for you?

1. See Dreamgirls at the Prince Music Theatre in Philadelphia. Richard M. Parison, Jr.'s excellent production was originally set to close on December 31 but, with critical and audience approval, has been extended for two more weeks. And I am telling you, you're going to love it.

2. Attend the Tony Awards. You'll be with thousands of people who care about theater as much as you do.

3. If you can't get to the Tonys, host a party in your home. Same principle.

4. Read the essay that begins any Best Plays annual. It'll probably say what a terrible season it was. You'll see why we should appreciate what we have.

5. Take pot-luck Off-Off-Broadway. If the show stinks, you're only a few bucks (and hours) behind.

6. Take a child to a musical, especially a kid who's never seen one.

7. Buy a cast album CD of a show you know nothing about. If you're young, buy one from before your time; if you're older, buy one from recent times.

8. Buy the LP of a cast recording that hasn't yet been released on CD, and get a turntable to play it.

9. Usher at your local theater. Yes, you'll meet some terrible people, but you'll meet nice ones, too.

10. Sell concessions at your local theater. Tony-winning playwright Herb Gardner did this when he was young, and he said that seeing shows repeatedly taught him what works and what doesn't.

11. See Chita Rivera's show. Despite all appearances, the lady won't be with us forever.

12. Applaud harder. The increased activity will do you a world of good.

13. When you're already seated before a show and someone arrives later and must get by, don't glare and grumble. Smile and say, "Welcome to our row!"

14. Attend the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS sales. Purchases are fun -- and tax deductible!

15. Go to see productions at a college. That's where I first saw Stockard Channing, Tommy Lee Jones, and Geena Davis. Then you can say "I knew them when!" -- just as I'm doing now.

16. Go to see productions at a high school. That's where I first discovered Tony-winning costume designer Susan Hilferty and actor John Pinette (Hairspray).

17. Make a tape or burn a disc of a favorite cast album for someone who doesn't yet know the show.

18. Take an ad in a community theater program. You might even get some business from it.

19. Start a list of every show you see, and when and where you see it. You'll be glad when you look back years later.

20. Buy a pair of house seats for that smash hit you've wanted to see -- from Actors' Equity Association. Sure, you'll pay a premium; but it goes to charity, and you'll get great seats for a white-hot show.

21. Take pictures of each and every Broadway marquee when you next visit. In 2016, 2026, and 2036, you'll be glad that you have them.

22. Audition for your community theater. If you don't get a role, ask, "What else might you need me to do here?"

23. Attend a type of show you haven't previously liked. (Shakespeare gets easier when you repeatedly see his plays.)

24. Read The Obsession with Anne Frank, by Lawrence Graver. It's quite a harrowing story, though you'll be surprised why.

25. Re-read Ted Chapin's Everything Was Possible. I know you've already read it, but do it again so you'll have an even greater appreciation for Follies, if possible.

26. On a night when you have no plans, make the snap decision to go see a show at a local theater. Impulse ticket-buying often yields the best results.

27. When you're arguing about the worth of a show with a friend, say "Let's agree to disagree" rather than "You complete and utter moron!"

28. Take an adult education class in theater, be it playwriting or acting or simple appreciation. You'll be a better theatergoer for it.

29. Adapt a play, novel, or movie into a musical and see how hard it is. You'll have more respect for others who've done so.

30. Don't have that extra drink at dinner before you go to the theater, so you'll have all of your brainpower ready.

31. Visit the drama section of a used book store. You never know what you're going to find there.

32. Volunteer to build or paint sets for a community theater. What pleasure you'll get when the curtain goes up and you see your work up there.

33. Revisit a show or a script that you detested the first time you saw or read it. Opinions can change as one ages.

34. Clean out your closets and donate unwanted duds to your local community theater.

35. Don't read the reviews of a show until after you've seen it. You may wind up having more respect for critics.

36. Find out which politicians in your area are arts-friendly. Then vote for them.

37. Apply to be a seat-filler at the Tonys.

38. Listen to a classic cast album that you haven't listened to in years. You'll see why you liked it in the first place.

39. Get an arts-friendly credit card. Many theaters now have them.

40. Compose your will -- and leave some money to a community or regional theater.

41. Subscribe to a theater and see a full, balanced season of shows.

42. Go to London and see the world's oldest surviving theater district.

43. Go to Greece. Every theatergoer needs to see where it all began.

44. Join a club that offers discount tickets. You'll see more shows that way.

45. Listen to a foreign cast recording of a favorite musical, especially a performance in the language of the country where the show is set -- e.g., the Spanish Evita.

46. Alphabetize -- or re-alphabetize -- your cast albums, programs, scripts, etc.

47. Look through your ticket stubs, recall a favorite evening that you spent with a friend, then call him and reminisce.

48. Button up your overcoat when the wind is free. Take good care of yourself.

49. Open a new window, open a new door. Travel a new highway that's never been tried before.

50. See the film version of Dreamgirls when it opens in December, and see if it's as good as Richard M. Parison, Jr.'s production in Philadelphia.


[To contact Peter Filichia directly, e-mail him at [email protected]]

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