Give the Arts as a Holiday Gift

It’s that time of year again – what to get my husband/wife/spouse/brother/sister/etc… for Christmas/Chanukah/Kwanzaa/New Years/Boxing Day.
Allow me to suggest a wonderful treat that will not only nourish your creative life, but that will support others as well.
What kind of show?
It really doesn’t matter. Theater, Concert, Dance, Club, Gallery, One-Person, Opera, Performance Art – whatever blows your skirt up…
Go see the Jonas Brothers at a big arena or a Twisted Sister cover band at a dive bar. See the Broadway tour of “Mary Poppins” or a local college production of “The Miracle Worker”. Take in the Bolshoi’s latest piece or go see your niece’s dance-school production of the “The Nutcracker”. Pick something you know you like. Even better, pick something you THINK you might like. Even better than that, pick something you’re not familiar with, take the slight risk, and go. When you support the arts, you encourage the creation of more art; you sustain the places that create and sell art; you contribute to a community that offers up a window (and often, a mirror) to society.
But theater is expensive…
Well, yes and no. If you’re looking for an Orchestra seat to a Broadway Series touring production of “Wicked”, then yes, those tickets will set you back some duckets. But, remember that supporting theater doesn’t have to be about spending big money on touring shows. If you live in a metropolitan area, there are probably 10 theaters that you don’t even know exist within an hour’s drive of your house. These are small professional theaters (50 seat black-box or storefront style), dinner theaters, theaters on college campuses, and an array of other theater-going options and most of them are reasonably priced.
Many theaters offer discounted tickets through organizations such as Goldstar or Stimtix. Google something like “discount theater tickets” along with the name of your city and see what comes up. You will be very surprised at the deals you can find. I saw the Broadway tour of “Spring Awakening” for $30 through Goldstar. I loved the show and the fact that I got to see it at a wallet-friendly price. Were they the most awesome-up-close seats in the theater? No, of course not, but I got to see a show I might not have otherwise and my theater/life experience is better for having seen it.
I recently went to see a beautifully-designed, wonderfully staged “Equus” presented in a theater on the campus of a local university, by their theater arts students. Cost me $10. For the cost of two lattes, I had an enjoyable evening of theater AND supported a good theater program, encouraging students to make their living in a creative field. I feel pretty damn good about that. And even if the show wasn’t well done, I’d like to think I’d still feel good about supporting the student’s efforts.
There’s nothing good where I live…
B.S. Sure there is – but you do have to look. Most large cities (and many smaller towns) have an independent newspaper (in L.A., there’s one called LA Weekly; in Santa Barbara, there’s a paper called The Independent) that list theater, music, and art happenings. Take a look and see what’s in your community. Of course, there’s always the risk that you may end up seeing a bad play, or a less-than-perfect dance piece, or a dreadful musical. One way to avoid that is to do some online research about the arts organizations in your area. If there is a theater or dance group in your area that gets consistently good reviews or notices, it’s a fair bet that you’re going to see something you’ll enjoy or maybe even love.
Okay, I’ll go just this once…
Sure, that’s a start. But if you find a place you enjoy; say, a local dance-school or an intimate theater, continue to see their work. Support their mission to the extent that you can. There is an embarrassment of riches in most communities when it comes to theater, music, and dance. You will see pieces that move you, touch you, cause you to giggle, or make you misty-eyed. Some pieces will challenge your beliefs and ask that you think a little differently – and that’s okay, too. The point is to find an organization you are proud to support and then become a subscriber, member, sustaining supporter, etc. If you’re the type of person who itemizes your taxes, many arts organizations are non-profits so your contributions count as charitable deductions, which is win-win for you and the organization you support.