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A return to the Queens Theatre Network in 2012?

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This being my last column for 2011 and as a special holiday treat — at least for me — I will share with you some of my random opinions, some of which may have something to do with theater but all under the heading of “Rants & Raves.”

You kids out there may not know who Jimmy Cannon was — he died almost 40 years ago — but he was a popular sportswriter for several of the New York tabloids who, on occasion, would meet his column deadline with a number of non-sports subjects starting with the phrase “Nobody asked me, but…” Well, nobody asked me, either.

Why don’t the local theater groups get together to coordinate show dates and publicity?

As we all know, attracting an audience is always a challenge, especially with limited resources, so a united effort to get the word out makes a lot of sense. About 25 years ago, there was something called Queens Theatre Network. It ran a one-act play festival, had some good ideas and good intentions, but it didn’t last too long. Perhaps someone out there will rise to the challenge.

The weekly papers could help promote local theater by expanding their coverage. Getting into the dailies is close to impossible, although on Sundays, if you part with five bucks for The New York Times, you’ll see listings for Long Island shows in the Metropolitan section. But nothing for Queens.

I’m a technophobe, one of the last few without a cellphone. I get frantic when I see all the kids, and older, constantly using their handheld devices wherever they go and whomever they’re with. So it’s not surprising that an entity — socialsklz — was recently created to teach the younger generation, for a fee, such skills as how to start a conversation, patience and thoughtfulness, self-control, respect and consideration, and dining and phone manners. You know, the stuff we learned naturally a long time ago.

The golden age of musicals is no more, and nearly all the new shows are hardly worth your time and the money it will cost you. So-called “priority seating” tickets for some of the current ones are in the $400 range! Revivals are plentiful with memorable music and make-sense lyrics. There’s Stephen Sondheim for you highbrow types, and for hummable tunes, there’s Jerry Herman, who turned 80 this year. “Hello, Dolly!”, “Mame,” “La Cage aux Folles,” and for us cultists, “Mack & Mabel,” are always welcomed back.

Discounted tickets for Broadway are usually available, but the producers withhold the better seats for full-price customers. That’s why you’ll often see some empty center seats a few rows ahead of you. Wait ‘til the lights go down, move up, and hope some latecomers don’t throw you out. And at the curtain call, please shun the standing ovation, now all too common — save it for something truly exceptional.

A character in one of my favorite plays, Eugene O’Neill’s “The Iceman Cometh,” complains about “no foundation.” A recent AARP Bulletin editorial expressed similar concern about the state of our nation’s foundation “with a fragile economy, a dysfunctional government, devalued institutions and angry, dispirited citizens.” Meanwhile the political class is focused mainly on getting elected and re-elected, and raising the money to do so. What’s best for the country doesn’t get done. Occupy, anyone?

Some numbers have caught my attention. Over the Thanksgiving long weekend, it’s estimated that half the population went holiday shopping, which is why, I guess, that the generic greeting this time of year is “Happy Holidays.” However, less than 1 percent of the population is in military service, while the war in Afghanistan is costing $2 billion a week.

Before I fall off my soapbox and run out of space, let me end on a more hopeful note, wishing Happy Birthday to granddaughter Addison, 2 years old on Christmas Eve.

Contact Ron Hellman at rbh24@Columbia.edu.

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