Entertainment Equality: Or Why I’ll Never Love Theater

Last night, I sat down and watched my first Tony Awards.

It was pretty fucking awesome. Besides the amazing Hamilton performance — which honestly was the only reason I was watching — there was the phenomenal performance by the cast of The Color Purple, Shuffle AlongGet on Your Feet and Fiddler on the Roof.

James Cordan began the show by offering condolences and support to the city of Orlando, sentiments that were repeated by many in attendance. He — and I’d say the entire broadcast — fired shots at the blinding whiteness of the Oscars through the celebration of inclusive shows and casts of color.

Indeed, tonight’s theme was that the stage was for everyone, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or class.

Unfortunately, I’m going to have to take issue with that last point.

I grew up poor … ish.

We always had a roof over our heads and we always had food in the house, but financial concerns were just as omnipresent. There was no chance 5-year-old Dani would develop into a theater kid. She just couldn’t afford to.

My family went to the movies sometimes and the library every week — both in and out of school. We didn’t have cable, but that was okay, because Reading Rainbow aired on PBS. And we lived in the Midwest. It’s easily a two to 10 year wait just to see a second or third-tier touring company to make its way to us. And even then, tickets (well … decent tickets) start at $70 a pop.

I love Hamilton to a ridiculous degree. I’ve listened to the cast album easily 200 times. I gobbled up the Hamiltome (a.k.a. Hamilton: The Revolution) and have the Alexander Hamilton biography that inspired the musical sitting on my living room table. I own swag of questionable copyright status that I’ve received from friends and family.

And despite all of that, I’ve resigned myself to never being able to see the live stage show. I enjoy Hamilton as a musical experience rather than a theater experience (made easier by the fact that most of the dialogue is in song; I can’t do this with Lin-Manual Miranda’s other work, In The Heights).

Right after the Tonys broadcast, I got an email letting me know that a new block of tickets were on sale for the show. I went and looked up the date of my 30th birthday, March 11, 2017. Tickets started at $849 — more than $150 more than my monthly rent. Add to that airplane tickets and lodging, and I’m looking at easily spending $2,000 for one night’s entertainment. Forget traveling with a companion.

I decided to try a different show, one that wasn’t so insanely popular. The Color Purple started at $149, which was more reasonable but still an expensive ticket. Of the shows I was interested in, only Shuffle Along had tickets available under $100.

So much blackness on that stage. It was great.
But after Sunday night’s performance, I don’t expect those tickets to be there for much longer.

I ended my futile shopping attempt that evening as I always do: disappointed, angry and resentful.

I refuse to resign myself to enjoying theater the way some of my friends do: Listening to the original Broadway recordings and seeing shows as they come to our town. That feels too much like pressing my nose against the glass surrounding the rich and privileged while straining to hear their happy conversations.

No other form of entertainment expects this of me. I can order brand new or bestselling books with a click of a button on my e-reader. I was able to check out Go Set A Watchman — last summer’s most anticipated book title — from my city library the same week it was released. And beyond books, I am able to enjoy movies, music and TV without having to also go broke. Hell, I can see Russian ballet — arguably the best in the world — in my home town for around $40 a ticket.

Cordan made a joke at one point as he MC’d from the upper balcony that he was joining the people in the “cheap seats.”

“But this is theater, so even the cheap seats are $1,500,” he quipped.

I didn’t think it was a very funny joke, perhaps because it hit too close to home.

Five-year-old Dani never developed into a theater kid, and, truthfully, things aren’t looking too good for 29-year-old Dani.

Dani reads because she’s too poor to do much else. She studied journalism at the University of Missouri, so really, what did she expect? She’s over YA but will read the hell out of some Harlequin novels. She’s a producer of digital content and she lives in St. Louis. Find her on Twitter at @Dani_Lacey.

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