THEATER TALK: Repeat Offenders, Part I
If you don't personally know me (and very probably, even if you do), chances are good you don't know how many times I've seen "Spring Awakening." Let's just say it's a lot. As in… you could probably divide the number of times I've seen it by three and it would still be an absurd amount for most people. I'm fine with that, it's one of my very favorite shows and I could wax poetic on it for hours (and believe you me, I have).
What is it, though, that brings me, and others, back to the theater? Why do we go again and again to see the same production so many times? I know this is not a foreign phenomenon, especially in the Broadway community—I've encountered people who have seen shows like "American Idiot," "Hair," "In the Heights," and the aforementioned "Spring Awakening" over twenty times.
Surely these people must be clinically insane! Or at the very least, the proverbial "1%" that they can afford all those theater tickets, right? Well, actually, wrong. I've encountered these "repeat offenders" so to speak (myself included) at lotteries, student rushes, and in partial-view seats. These discounted seats, which are typically $15-40, depending on the show, provide a way for show addicts (typically of the college student variety) to get their fix, so to speak. Sometimes they return because they want to see a certain understudy go on for a role, a cast member's first or last show, or some other special occasion, but I think the majority of the time, they return because they just love the show so much.
But why see a show so many times? Why see it more than once, for that matter? Well, I ask you, dear reader, to think about how many times you've watched your favorite movie. I'm guessing you own it on DVD, and can just pop it in whenever you want. Maybe you're feeling sick, and you just want to watch Gene Kelly sing in the rain, or John McClane save the day. But the point is, you can watch it whenever you want. Even if you've only seen it a few times, you're probably comforted by the fact that it's always there, ready for you to watch when the mood strikes. Musicals and plays, on the other hand, happen on a more specific schedule, usually eight shows a week, at most.
I think it ties back into that old principal of supply and demand: lower the supply, and demand increases. For someone like me, who is addicted to shows, particularly those on Broadway, which is on the other side of the country, my supply is pretty low, thus when I am in New York, my demand is high! I feel like I need to make up for lost time. Granted, New Yorkers don't have the same geographical constraints as the rest of the country, but there is always the time constraint. When you add in factors like a limited run or not knowing how long a show will stay open (an unfortunately common phenomenon among the shows with fanbases of devoted returnees; see: all the aforementioned shows et al), and it starts to make a bit more sense.
So we've addressed they whys and hows of seeing a show multiple times, but what is the experience like? Stay tuned for next week's Theater Talk!
Reach theater editor Katie here.