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All you need is love, love, love is all you need — The Beatles
Yes, love is in the air. Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and spring is just a few weeks away — March 20, to be exact, regardless of predictions from groundhogs Phil, Chuck and Mel. Meanwhile, the cold weather is keeping lots of you indoors, addicted to your TV — perhaps one of those new flat screens with high definition, where “American Idol” holds your attention and “reality” shows suspend your belief. If you really want to know what reality is, watch the Winter Olympics in Vancouver starting Friday — how do those snowboarders and ski jumpers do it?
But we theater people are out and about, never mind the weather, running on love with plenty of love to share. Love is what gets us to put our time and talent into something so ephemeral as theater, especially on the local level where the thought of a pay check is the furthest thing from our minds.
When it comes to making a buck, on Broadway for instance, there’s a well-known saying that you can make a killing in the theater but you can’t make a living. True enough — about 80 percent of Broadway shows are never able to pay back their investors. If you had put money into a show like “Wicked,” you made a nice profit. But most of the time, don’t count on it. The cost of mounting a Broadway musical these days is in the millions — the new “Spiderman” is said to be budgeted at an incredible $50 million — and keeping most shows running every week is easily more than $500,000.
Plays are less expensive and Off Broadway doesn’t cost as much, but we’re still talking about lots of money. And that’s why ticket prices are so high, affordable to the occasional tourist and those of a certain age whose children are grown and who have paid off their mortgage. For the rest of you, good luck.
Here in Queens, in what we can call Off Off Broadway, tickets are inexpensive and the quality, varied as it is, can be surprisingly high. Not to mention that there’s a lot to choose from, at a venue close to home, where your seat is close to the stage, and where you get to talk to the actors after the show.
Gloom and doom are all around us, but that’s nothing new. Back in 1651, the English political philosopher Thomas Hobbes published his book “Leviathan,” advocating for a strong central government to control the lives of men which are “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” A century later, around 1759, the French philosopher Voltaire wrote his satire “Candide,” which ironically proclaimed that “all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds” — an earthquake in Lisbon had happened a few years before and a war was going on. (By the way, Leonard Bernstein’s musical of “Candide” has my favorite theater overture.)
Well, when it comes to optimism, I go to the head of the line. Although my daughter Shari claims I live in a fantasy world — this was even before “Avatar” — I believe that all good things can happen if we have the will and determination. Remember to “accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative, and don’t mess with mister in-between” — Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer. Sure, we have our own war (or two) and a devastating earthquake, a debt-filled economy and terror threats, and things look bleak. But think about us theater people — we have lots of hope and lots of love, and somehow we know that it will all work out for the best.
Contact Ron Hellman at RBH24@Columbia.edu.
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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