Frequently Asked Questions of My Theatre Geekiness

Erin Conley

  • OnStage Los Angeles Columnist
  • Twitter: @Erinsk8

In my decade of loving theater, I’ve learned it’s not an obsession people always readily understand. Television? Absolutely, everybody watches TV. Same with movies, books, and music. Theater, however, is often met with some raised eyebrows. Sure, a lot of people enjoy seeing a show or two a year, but that doesn’t mean they understand my level of obsession, which involves seeing most shows that come through my home in LA as well as my theater-packed annual trips to New York.

Here are some of the questions I’ve received most often over the years, as well as my answers.

But theater is so expensive. How do you afford it?

I truly think this is one of the biggest misconceptions about theater. If you know where to look, and especially if you’re a student, there are opportunities for affordable theater everywhere. The website Broadway for Broke People is a fantastic resource that cross-references all of the options to find the cheapest price for each show currently on Broadway. New York also has TDF, TKTS, TodayTix, and more. If you’re in LA or another market, there’s Goldstar and good old-fashioned discount codes, which Theatermania and BroadwayBox do a great job keeping track of. The summer I lived in New York City while I was in college, I saw multiple shows a week and my average price paid per show for the entire summer was $21. The highest I paid for anything was $41.50, which turned out to be a huge mistake since it was The Addams Family. Bottom line, If you’re willing to put in a little research and perhaps some time waiting in a rush or TKTS line to find the good deals, theater can absolutely be affordable.

Why do you see the same shows multiple times?

There are around 25 shows I have seen more than once, ranging from twice to 29 times (I never said I wasn’t a little crazy). What I love about theater is that each performance is a unique moment that will never be replicated, and this also applies to individual performances of the same show. When I really love a show, I enjoy returning to see new cast members or understudies, and more often than not I notice something new. It’s similar to re-watching a favorite TV show or film or re-reading a favorite book, but also more precious because every theater performance is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Did you do theater in high school?

No. My involvement in the theater community has only been as a fan, a street team employee for a while in college to promote local shows, and now as an amateur theater blogger and critic. I was, however, a member of my high school choir, which took an annual field trip to New York to see a show. Those trips introduced me to theater.

What’s your favorite show?

I always struggle to answer this question because my personal, sentimental favorite shows and the shows I objectively find to be the best are very often two different things. The two shows that have personally meant the most to me in terms of impact on my life are Spring Awakening and American Idiot, both of which I readily admit are flawed musicals that are not for everyone. In terms of objectively great shows whose brilliance I greatly admire, I’d name Sweeney Todd and A Chorus Line. The one show that fits both categories for me is Next to Normal, which I both adore and find to be the greatest wholly original musical theater achievement of the past decade.

I’m going to New York/any other city with theater. What should I see? 

This is my favorite question to receive, and I always try to gear my answer towards the sensibilities of the person asking. For people relatively well-versed in theater, my current New York recommendation is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which I saw on my last trip and loved. For the person who sees a show or two a year, An American in Paris or The King and I might be a better bet. In LA, I love pointing people towards Center Theatre Group’s productions, which represent a nice range from commercial touring shows to more intimate pieces.

Why do you love theater so much?

I first fell in love with theater at my second Broadway show, Wicked, when I was a sophomore in high school. I remember being so, so mesmerized, and from then on, I began seeking out theater every chance I got. Over time, I realized a big part of why I love theater so much is that it requires you to be totally present. It can’t be rewound or paused; you experience it as it’s happening and that’s it. As a self-proclaimed champion multitasker and chronic overthinker, that feeling is rare for me. Since that performance of Wicked, theater has led me to some of my closest friends and some of my most treasured life experiences, both of which I wouldn’t trade for the world.