Watch ‘Sam Shepard: Stalking Himself’

There are few whose words I cherish more than that of Sam Shepard. And although last week we celebrated the birthday of the Pulitzer Prize-winning rock and roll jesus with a cowboy mouth, if that wasn’t enough to satisfy your craving for the haunted and dusty words and performances of Sam, you can now watch Sam Shepard: Stalking Himself, an autobiographical documentary that dives into the journey of an artist. We followed him on the act of writing his plays in a way that’s more intimate and candid than we’ve seen the director before—aside from Shepard & Darkwhich was filmed well after this had it’s premiere.

In the reflective and wonderful film we get a rare glimpse into his normally shielded life as we catch up with Sam at a “key stage along this route of self-discovery. In 1996, the Signature Theatre Company presented an entire season of his plays at the Public Theatre in New York. Spanning thirty years of writing, the season covered the one-acts of the Sixties, the rock and roll plays of the Seventies, the later works that feature Shepard’s recurrent preoccupation with the American family, and concluded with the premiere of his latest play.” Check out parts one through four below.

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Aizzah Fatima’s ‘Dirty Paki Lingerie’ Makes Its Way to The Flea Theater

Yesterday evening, I headed down to  The Flea Theater in TriBeCa to see Aizzah Fatima’s new play, Dirty Paki Lingerie. Directed by Brooklyn-based director Erica Gould (Speak Easy), the show had its start on August 1st and has been playing to sold-out audiences since. Written by Fatima, the show features six Pakistani female characters—all played by her as well. The up-and-coming American actress born to Pakistani immigrant parents, has written a show that takes on issues of sex, marriage, and dating in a community that’s seldom heard from other than in context to 9/11 or terrorism. 

It’s the character of the young Pakistani American woman—sipping from a glass of wine as she chats with a Pakistani man on the plane somewhere in business class—that captures the struggles of a young generation trying to connect their Pakistani upbringing with their North American roots. Along the way, she also deals with the Pakistani men who send confusing signals. “They want to laugh with someone like me and sleep with someone like me. But they don’t want to marry me. They want a 22-year-old virgin for that,” the character of the young woman laments after the man asks to make out with her in the airplane lavatory.  
 
She is not alone in her struggles though, and that’s what makes this play a story for every immigrant. It deals with the idea of what it means to be American while respecting one’s own cultural and religious roots. And for all its dramatic roots, there are still plenty of laughs along the way. 
 
Dirty Paki Lingerie runs at The Flea Theater through August.
 

James Murphy to Write Original Music for ‘Betrayal’ on Broadway Starring Rachel Weisz & Daniel Craig

Back in April, we expressed our unwavering thrill that genius playwright Harold Pinter’s Betrayal would be heading to Broadway. And not only that, but Rachel Weisz and Daniel Craig would be taking on the leading roles in the production, with direction by the iconic Mike Nichols. And as his work is wont to be, Pinter ‘s play is a biting and absurd tale of the painful romantic entanglement caught in the nuances of everyday life. 

Told chronologically in reverse, Betrayal will star Weisz as a woman involved in a serious affair, with Craig as her unassuming husband. So to top it off, as if we weren’t already brimming with excitement, it appears that former LCD Sound System frontman James Murphy will be helming the original music for the play. And oh yes, I can certainly live with that.
 
The show is set to debut in previews on October 1 with an October 27th opening at the Barrymore Theater, but in the meantime, check out the photos below from rehearsals, courtesy of Vulture
 
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Olfactory Designer David Bernstein on the Power of Scent in Theater

Certain scents—even unpleasant ones—evoke powerful emotions and memories. The first few days of spring weather in New York, when the streets smell like trash, remind me that my birthday is coming up. Walking into the BlackBook editorial offices somehow transports me to my childhood dentist’s office, an odd mix of antiseptic and fluoride. Turns out I’m not the only one affected this way.

“There is something embarrassingly intimate about smell,” says olfactory designer David Bernstein (pictured, showing off his knee pads by Yoko Ono for Opening Ceremony). “It allows the external to penetrate our most private associations.”

Bernstein works as a designer in the growing field of sensory theater, lending authenticity to theatrical and artistic performances through the addition of various scents. The acrid smell of freshly-ignited gunpowder, for example, might bring the tension and pain of a battlefield scene to life. A romance may benefit from the fresh scent of pavement after a spring rain, setting the stage for the first, furtive advances of young lovers.

Bernstein embarked on this unusual career path in 2010 after being approached by director Julia Locascio for her production of her original work You Are Made of Stars, the story of a teenager who filters her experiences through the surreal realm of her senses.  The actors would cue the audience to pick up numbered fabric swatches that Bernstein covered in the scent of the scene, ranging from playing in a childhood bedroom (scents akin to Play-Doh and condensed milk) to the traumatic loss of virginity (leather and Old Spice).

“I remember getting my hands on a riding crop smell, and it somehow reeked of sex in this very visceral way,” Bernstein explains. “It was the first time it really hit home that this could be something a little more stimulating than the idea of smell-o-vision.” Since then, he has worked with the Theater Reconstruction Ensemble’s Patrick Scheid, whose upcoming trilogy of performances inspired by the writing of Frederic Nietzsche will explore a range of sensory effects. In one chapter of the project, Scheid plans to do away with actors altogether and rely solely on a shifting landscape of sights, sounds, smells, and atmospheric affects like humidity to connect with the audience.

In perhaps the most significant validation of his unique medium, the Museum for Arts and Design called upon his expertise during the run of its 2012 exhibit, “The Art of Scent: 1889-2012,” the first museum retrospective to exhibit the scents of commercially available perfumes as objects of art.

Bernstein’s work is designed to connect audiences with the emotional context of a production, whether literal or figurative. The heady, rich smell of a family dinner does more than recall memories of the foods one might have eaten around such a table. It also underscores the contrast of such an opulent setting with others in the same play, as it did in a production Bernstein worked on with director Christoph Buchegger called The Man Outside. As the main character, a German army veteran stumbling home after World War II through the rubble of war, enters the house of his commanding officer, the audience could feel his palpable discomfort as the starving man inhaled the sweet, thick smell of their evening meal.

But how do you ensure that the greasy smell elicits a troubled feeling, instead of a hungry one?

“When a smell isn’t literally trying to evoke a physical setting of the play, I could use almost anything to evoke emotion,” Bernstein says, describing a scent meant to accompany a personification of the Elbe River in Germany as a shrieking, sexualized female character in The Man Outside. “As she’s about to be introduced, there’s this rotting, fishy, salty smell spiked with the artificially floral notes of knockoff perfume. It was a particularly difficult one to execute, but it smelled exactly as I had hoped: rotten, watery, off-putting, but somehow feminine and serene.”

Bernstein uses the intrusion of smell to embrace incompleteness and uncertainty, to draw the viewer into the time, weather, and emotional tone of a scene. The spectacle of production is sharpened, pulling audiences through uncomfortable moments by engaging all the senses.

And yet Bernstein feels that certain performances are best left unscented, embracing a minimalist approach in his own directing work. In his upcoming play, Too Many Lenas, inspired by the hit HBO show Girls, Bernstein uses a spare stage with few props to encourage audiences to fill a vague, shapeless aesthetic with their own perceptions of the show’s eccentric characters. Negative space is its own character.

Bernstein’s minimalism does, however, have its limits. “I can be like a Christmas tree decorator with Alzheimer’s,” he says. “I’m like, it needs a little bit more! Now it’s perfect! And then I turn around, and I’m like wait, ADD THIS!”

A man truly dedicated to the art of experience. 

[More by Nicole Pinhas]

Abby Rosebrock Opens Up About Writing and Starring in Her Fantastic New Play ‘Different Animals’

Anne Sexton’s poem "For My Lover, Returning to His Wife," ends with the line: "As for me, I am watercolor. I wash off." She’s just addressed the letting go of love and the acceptance that she’s been but a passing fancy, a mirage in a passionless period of life, "littleneck clams out of season," "a bright red stoop in the harbor." So she "gives him back his heart," giving him permission to return to that which makes him whole, not that which simply excites him. It’s a saddening poem, but when it comes to love, sex, relationships, or simply trying to connect with other human beings, it’s all very tricky territory.

We all carry the same desires, and yet we end up running around life as if blindfolded, ending up with all the wrong people, in all the wrong places, looking for some semblance of what it is we’re after. But love isn’t always a choice, and the way it works into your veins has little to do with consciousness. Your need for a person outweighs your ability to thrive on anything else, and until that wish is fulfilled you pine and pine before accepting that you must either go after what you want, or suppress your feelings. Either decision is frightening and leaves you feeling as if you could have done something differently. You can never be sure.

And with Abby Rosebrock’s fantastic new play Different Animals, directed by Bruce Ornstein, she explores that rift between romantic love and connecting with the world. Bright, hilarious, and filled with authentic drama and personality, Rosebrock gives us a unique tale of four South Carolinians as their romantic trials and tribulations lead them into adultery, blackmail, polygamy, and Olive Garden bathrooms. Rosebrock plays Molly, a vivacious and permanently manic young woman obsessively in love with a totally normal middle-aged man, Leo (played by Dirk Keysser). The trouble is, Leo happens to be married to the very sweet but clearly unhappy in her marriage Jessica, played by Cesa Pledger.

That unhappiness takes the form of an affair with the handsome young town pastor, Will, played by Brady Kirchberg.  Jessica and Will try to keep things casual without disrupting her marriage to Leo, but when Molly pounces on Leo and inserts herself into the picture, the pleasantly dull marriage morphs into a ménage à trois. It’s a brilliantly done modern study of marriage and the decline of monogomy that forces you to turn your own conventions inside out and reconsider the possibilities of love and what it means to actually want to be with someone, what that connection actually asks of you, and how far you’re willing to go for it. The women of the play may be young, but they feel as though they’ve lead full lives and are as richly dynamic as they are hilarious and ridiculous. 

Last week, I got to chat with Rosebrock about her Medieval background, bringing Different Animals to life, and longing for something more than sex in an Olive Garden.

You didn’t start out as a playwright, you’re actually studying literature.Yeah, I still am getting a PhD in Medieval English literature at Columbia, but I’d always wanted to be an actress. I’d done all different kinds of writing in different genres but I took an acting class when I just couldn’t take not acting anymore. And I started writing some scenes for class and thought I should write a full-length, and that is how this happened.

But you trained at Upright Citizens Brigade as well?
I did about a year of training at UCB before I started acting. It was really great and opened up the entire world for me. 
 
I’m sure it’s a totally different environment or way of thinking for you who have been working in a more academic mindset.
Conceptually it’s exactly the opposite, because academia is all about critique and deconstructing things and finding inconsistencies and problems, and improv is all about creating something from nothing, constructing things, accepting whatever you’re given.
 
Was improv something that came naturally for you? I find it terribly frightening.
Yeah, it’s really scary for me, and I think for everyone who does it. But it’s really great training for your brain. It forces you to ignore the judgmental critical signals in your brain that shut you down when you feel afraid. 
 
So how did you become a part of Bruce’s workshop?
I was living with a boyfriend—who is no longer my boyfriend but we still swap writing—and he just kept pushing me to act because we kept watching movies and I apparently kept saying how much I wanted to be in them, and he sensed that I was miserable without acting. So he made me sign up for a class and I found Bruce’s. I could afford it and he seemed nice and accessible, so I started and the rest is history. 
 
Did you do a lot of acting when you were younger?
Yeah, when I was little I did a lot of community theater in South Carolina and I always wanted to be an actor but just got really depressed when I moved to the city for college. But that was also when I found literature; I had never been a very literary person or much of a reader before, so I got distracted with that for a few years. 
 
How did you begin writing for the stage? Did it begin with shorter scenes for class?
Well, I wrote some very short plays and one acts for class because I noticed other people were doing that too. Also, pretty much all playwriting is about conflict, and, coming from an improv background, I didn’t know what to make of all the fighting and bickering that I was seeing in published plays. So I thought this was a great opportunity to use what sketch writing training I have from UCB and join the ranks of kids who were writing their own stuff. I had a couple of works in a showcase that Bruce did and he liked them enough to encourage me to write a full-length. So I drafted this play really fast, in like a week or so, but that first version is just entirely different from what I have now. I spent a year revising it with Bruce’s help and the workshop’s help.
 
Was it totally different when you began? How did it morph into what it is now?
When I first showed it to Bruce he said it was a bit unfocused and had a few characters with a lot of emotional meat and some characters that are completely superfluous, so with his help I narrowed it down to the four characters that I was most interested in. I had just been in a wedding in the Domincan Republic, so I had a character that was from Santo Domingo and I still kind of like him. I think he deserves his own play. But now it’s hard to imagine anything in this play taking place outside of Spartanburg.
 
Did you write the character of Molly knowing you were going to play her?
I originally wrote Jessica for me.
 
After seeing it, it’s not only hard to imagine you being Jesscia, but someone else playing Molly.
Very early, I imagined her being for me but it quickly became clear that Molly was going to be a more fun character to play, so I selfishly switched my allegiances to Molly. 
 
What was the casting process like?
Dirk reminded me of my dad. I mean, it’s funny, Leo isn’t based on my dad at all but the way he speaks, his idiom or whatever is totally just my dad’s voice that I stole, and Dirk struck me as someone who could do that.
 
And the Cherry Lane Theater is an incredible place to have your first show. I’m sure this is a great place to come and work everyday.
Totally. Yeah, we had a couple of options, I wasn’t a party to a lot of that stuff. We ended up here and it was a dream come true. People hear the name and want to see the show. 
 
The show has a lot of musical interludes, which I loved. How did you decide what you wanted for those?
I only listen to music that my brother got me into in the early ’90s and I wanted something to capture a southern flavor. It became clear we needed music because the sets that were designed were pretty complicated and take time to switch in and out.
 
Did growing up in North Carolina inform this show a lot for you? Were there a lot of real people or experiences you drew from your hometown?
Yeah, totally. I almost feel like I don’t have anything left to write about now because so many of the things that I think about my past are poured into this play. No one character is based on someone I knew, and no one situation is based on real things that have actually happened, but recently some stories about people I went to church with growing up have come to light, and people who had wild affairs that everyone knew about. I did, however, go to church school and learn how to give a blowjob on a Twix bar, like in the show.
 
There were a lot of little lines and moments like that that felt like you knew they were coming from somewhere personal.
Yeah, so much of our social lives were wrapped up in church growing up that it was sort of this lascivious exciting place where you’d go and hook up with people or drama would always go down. I wanted to capture that somehow.
 
What playwrights do you love?
I do read plays and go to plays all the time, but I think the writers that I most admire most are on television, like Mindy Kaling, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler. 
 
Yes, I happen to love The Mindy Project in a really strange way.
And, weirdly, her character is dating a Lutheran minister. 
 
So much of this play seems to be about romantic desire versus what happens when you actually obtain the object of affection, and the claustrophobia of being connected to someone else.
I always want to write comedies that are romantic. I always want to write about relationships and sex, and I always want it to be funny. That’s the theme that most breaks my heart that I want to explore. When you finally do achieve what you want to achieve, or land the person you want to land, you’re suddenly stuck with all this loneliness in a way, and it sucks, it’s so sad. A mentor of mine who was my Russian literature teacher in college was responding to a draft and mentioned that there are all these confined spaces in the play. And then Cesa said something like this too when she was working on Jessica. She realized that Jessica has sex in an Olive Garden, she works in a Barnes & Noble, her husband’s stuck in a cubicle all day—everyone feels like they live in a shoebox, and I think there’s something thematically significant about that. All of the closed-in spaces and the desire to be a part of something bigger and more meaningful than having sex in an Olive Garden bathroom.
 
Do you think your medieval studies have helped you in your writing?
I’ve had a lot of teaching I’ve had to do through Columbia, so that’s been really helpful. It’s like you get fifteen students where you just do a character study of all of them over the course of a semester, and getting to see people and their creative process—because it’s a writing class that I’ve been teaching—so I feel like teaching has given me a lot of food for thought. I wrote a chapter recently on The Wife of Bath’s prologue, it’s truly the most hilarious brilliant thing. Have you read it?
 
I have not.
I don’t necessarily like that period more than the 19th or 20th Century, so I feel like I’m pretty objective when I say that it is one of the best pieces of writing of all time. It’s hysterically funny and it’s basically a standup routine of this woman talking about her five marriages and her romantic exploits. It’s this disorganized ramble full of joke after joke after joke, and the character so clearly emerges from the page. I think that kind of humor is something I’d like to achieve in my own wiring; I can never aspire to be Chaucer, but there is a lot of emotional intensity in medieval that has a very special quality, a spiritual intensity that you don’t necessarily get in later periods that are less inflected with religion. So that’s probably useful in my writing. It’s hard to get past all the religious dogma in a lot of those texts, but once you do, the wildness of the people’s feelings and experiences is really something special.

Theatre Takes To The Mountains This Summer With Mass Live Arts

Up in New England’s storied Berkshire mountains, a lot of art happens. There’s Tanglewood for music, Mass MoCA for visual art, and Jacob’s Pillow for dance. Williamstown Theatre Festival puts up quite a few plays, but they’re mostly geared for the octogenarian set—revivals of Anything Goes, etc. This July, happily, marks the first annual Mass Live Arts Festival, which aims to bring an experimental edge to an otherwise overly safe season.

Mass Live founder and artistic director Ilan Bachrach will bring three New York-based stage companies to Great Barrington, Massachusetts, for the inaugural run of what we hope becomes a beloved tradition. First up is a Brooklyn-based collective, Half Straddle, which will deconstruct Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull to create Seagull (Thinking of you), which draws on the author’s letters and features “a Russian folk metal-influenced score.”
 
Obie-winning company The New York Players are up next, developing a new work in residency: Mona’s House of Dance. Finally, there’s Radiohole’s acclaimed Inflatable Frankenstein, a messily biological exploration of James Whale and Mary Shelley alike. Boundaries? These people have never heard of them. You can buy tickets for the handful of late July and early August performances right now—just don’t forget your hiking boots when you head up there.   

‘Peter and the Starcatcher’ Moves to New World Stages, Retains Most of Its Charm

Peter Pan—and by extension Peter and the Starcatcher, its prologue in play form—is a story about changes. Or, at least, it is a story about changes insofar as it is a story about stasis. The notion of Peter, and what makes him endlessly fascinating, is his ability to stay the same forever. In doing so, he’s forced to give up memory of everyone he ever loved. That seems to be the trade-off. The most tragic part of the book may be when Wendy returns to him, some time after their adventure and mentions how he saved their lives from Captain Hook.

"Who is Captain Hook?" he asked with interest when she spoke of the archenemy.

"Don’t you remember," she asked, amazed, "how you killed him and saved all our lives?"

"I forget them after I kill them," he replied carelessly.

When she expressed a doubtful hope that Tinker Bell would be glad to see her he said, "Who is Tinker Bell?"

"O Peter," she said, shocked; but even when she explained he could not remember.

"There are such a lot of them," he said. "I expect she is no more."

That, of course, is what makes Peter Pan a tragedy to any adult, though everything else contained within it may be all fun and frolic.

And the new production of Peter and the Starcatcher at New World Stages certainly abounds with fun and frolic. Rick Holmes seems delighted to be playing Black Stache, perhaps as he formerly played Lord Aster in the Broadway production of the show that nabbed five Tony Awards last year. If he is delighted, it’s for good reason; Captain Hook not only gets the best lines in the play, and the moment when he inadvertently chops off his hand is absolutely the moment that gets the best laughs. And Holmes’s performance as a giddy pirate king is exciting and vivid enough to make you long for a pirate’s life.

Alas, some of the rest of it might make you long for a glass of rum.

Jason Ralph, who originally served as Peter’s understudy in the Broadway production, plays the title character with great comic charm—right up until the moment Peter realizes he’s condemned to be a child forever (and it is a kind of condemnation). He seems too robust for much of the performance to go so gently into that eternally childlike night. You find yourself wondering why he does not struggle harder against fate given that he seemed to be struggling wildly until that moment. I suppose there’s a lot to be said about being on an island filled with many singing mermaids and some inexplicable cannibals, though.

The wistfulness, though—the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind elements of Peter Pan—those never quite seem captured here.   

All the same, is interesting to see the story move to The New World stages. A play that takes place almost entirely in the cargo hold of a ship seems suited to a stage carved out under an entire city block, and those older viewers might find the experience greatly enhanced by a glass of, if not rum, then certainly a vodka tonic. You will, at least, unlike Peter, remember Captain Hook.

Forget ‘Hard Body’: Here Are Six Documentaries That Would Make Great Broadway Musicals

S. R. Bindler’s 1997 documentary Hands on a Hard Body became a cult favorite, and its depiction of the desperation attached to striving for the American Dream is still poignant and relevant sixteen years later. Naturally, the movie has become a Broadway musical, with a book written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Doug Wright and music and lyrics by Amanda Green and Trey Anastasio. (Yes, that Trey Anastasio.) The musical is surprisingly watchable, featuring stellar performances and enjoyable songs that come as close to anything you might catch on a pop-country radio station. But it did make me think: what are some other musicals that could be turned into Broadway musicals? 

Click through to see my top six choices!

Jesus Camp

The Broadway community loves singing kids, and how else could you get a musical about lovin’ Jesus produced on Broadway? Fill it with a rock score like in Jesus Christ Superstar or make it goofy and weird like Godspell, but you’d definitely have New York audiences swaying with devotion by the curtain call.

Buena Vista Social Club

This is almost too easy. The music is already there for the taking! This would be quite a groovy little jukebox musical.

Capturing the Friedmans

On the plus side: fun ’70s costumes! The downside: a signing pedophile. 

Murderball

A musical about wheelchair-bound rugby players? Call Andrew Lloyd Webber, because we’ve got a new Starlight Express on our hands.

Winged Migration

Combining the amazing puppetry in The Lion King and the death-defying flying effects in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark would be a great way for Julie Taymor to say "fuck you" to all of her critics.

Grizzly Man

I know a real bear is out of the question, but it’d definitely be a good marketing tool considering the press surrounding the cat in the recent production of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I think you’d need it, since this one would have a really dark finale. 

Follow Tyler Coates on Twitter.

Buying Theater Tickets Can Be More Intense Than Seeing Actual Theater

My boyfriend and I decided on Saturday morning to go see Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Booth Theatre, as the months-long run of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s production of Edward Albee’s monumental play was coming to a close on Sunday. I know what you’re thinking: theater is for old people, gays, and people with too much money to spend on cultural events! Oh no, I say: only one of those things are correct (the middle one, right?); my boyfriend pointed out in the middle of last week that the show was offering $35 tickets to those with student IDs, which delighted me because I really did not want to spent over a hundred dollars for tickets to a play, especially when there wouldn’t be any singing and dancing.

So we woke up early on Saturday morning and moseyed on up to 45th Street. (Have you ever been in Times Square before noon? It is quite eerie and quiet in a very Vanilla Sky kind of way.) The box office was opening at ten, and we got there just in time to see a line of youths snaking out of the box office doors. We were shocked that people wanted to see this old play, but it was closing the next day, and it would be one of the last chances to see Chicago theater veterans Tracy Letts (who wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning August: Osage County) and Amy Morton (you may remember her as the mom from Rookie of the Year) together in this famous play. So we stood there in line, patiently waiting in the cold for tickets to the theater, trying to pump ourselves up as if we were seeing, like, a taping of SNL or something.

I should note here that neither of us are students. But the one thing I was able to take away from a very brief and regretful two quarters of graduate school is a student ID that has no expiration date. People: check your shoeboxes right now. Still hanging on to your old student ID for nostalgia’s sake? Well, pull it out of that box stuffed with birthday cards and ticket stubs, because you have got a one-way ticket to cheap (well, cheaper) culture in New York City. I have used this thing at plays, at museums, even at movie theaters. I have no shame, because I also don’t have a lot of money. 

So we stood there. And stood there. And that line, my friends, was not moving very quickly. When we finally moved into the actual, tiny box office, we noticed there were two ticket windows. At one was a long line of people, patiently handing money and cards to an elegant older woman behind a metal cage. At the other window was no line, but behind the ticket window’s gate was an older gentlemen going about his business, by which I mean doing not much business at all. Occasionally he would shout out, "The evening performance is sold out! Are you all here for the matinee?" And all of us would answer yes, glumly and quietly, because we had all been standing in that line without moving for ten minutes, and we had already known for ten minutes that the evening performance was sold out.

"What is going on?" I snapped to my boyfriend, because I hate lines and I hate waiting and nothing makes me lose my patience quicker than customer service ineptitude on both sides of the counter. The man at the front of our line seemed like he had been there for ages, slowly growing older to the point where if he didn’t buy those damn tickets he would no longer be a student. Before he finished his transaction, the man at the other ticket window must have thought, "Hey, there are a good fifty people in line, perhaps I should open my window?" I immediately remembered how much I hate almost everyone. And, of course, I immediately felt guilty for getting angry, as I was pretending to be a student to save about fifty dollars on theater tickets. 

Finally, the other man opened his window, and up to it stepped an older woman with messy reddish hair. She passed her student ID through the slot under the window, and I was relieved to see that this business was moving, finally. Then, a pause. "Your card has expired," the man said. "Oh, I know," the woman replied. "I don’t get a new one until classes start on the 12th." "Well, I’m sorry," he replied, "I can’t sell you a student rush ticket if you have an expired ID." "Hmm," the woman said. "How about my daughter’s student ID? Would that work?" (See? Do you see what I mean about hating everyone? Everyone is terrible.) If you’re going to break the rules (as I was doing), make sure at least you have an ID that works. Don’t hold up the line! The man turned her down two more times, and the woman sulked away from the window. Then, she had a bright idea! She turned to another couple in line—a young man and a woman who appeared to be his mother and a student (they both had valid IDs!)—and asked if they could buy her a pair of tickets if she gave them cash. Right in front of the ticket windows! Again, if you’re going to break the rules, at least be discreet about it.)

The woman behind the ticket counter, naturally, started yelling. “The only people who may buy student rush tickets are students with valid IDs!” she shouted, reiterating the very basic policy. “You cannot buy tickets for someone who is not a student! We have sold out of student tickets and we’re really going above and beyond to offer seats to actual students!” My boyfriend told the woman in front of us in line, politely, that she should probably leave, while I, in a panic, started coming up with stories in my head in the event that I get caught using my old student ID. “Why are you in New York,” I imagined being asked at the ticket counter once I presented my Chicago university ID. “Oh, I’m taking a quarter off. Oh, and I have a Brooklyn zip code because I’m staying here for a while. That’s why I’m taking the quarter off. Do you want my old Chicago zip code? I can tell you which classes I’m signed up for next quarter!” My stomach started turning in knots, I started sweating. The game was getting intense. All I wanted was theater tickets, and I was simultaneously mad at everyone else in line with me and with myself for waiting until the last possible weekend to see this damn show. Meanwhile, the next girl in line did not have her student ID. (“What is wrong with everyone!” I snapped under my breath.)

Finally I stepped up to the ticket window (the man’s, not the shouty woman’s), handed my ID and cash. (Best not to leave a paper trail, I thought, as if this were Ronin or something.) He handed me, in return, a pair of tickets. And good seats! The entire exchange took 45 seconds. I was relieved, and rushed out of the box office as quickly as I could because it was really uncomfortable in there with the growing aggression on both sides of those metal gates. (Maybe caging in the employees of the Booth Theatre heightens the intensity of those ticket transactions?)

A few hours later, after sitting in our seats in the second row of the balcony, I realized how stupid it all was: the balcony was practically empty, with the first three and the last three rows filled with people. I turned to my boyfriend and said, “Can you believe this? There is no one here! And they turned people away at the ticket counter! They could have at least made sixty bucks by selling tickets rather than waiting for people to pay full-price!” And that, my friends, is what is wrong with the theater industry. Well, just one of them: I didn’t even like the play. I don’t feel bad telling you that. It’s closed now, after all. 

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