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Takin' it to the Streets September is bursting with free (and very public) events to usher in the new Broadway season
By MARK BLANKENSHIP

The most obvious way to enjoy Broadway is to see a show, of course, but this fall, The Broadway League is giving theater lovers unique new ways to experience the Great White Way. From now until September 30, the League will sponsor Back2Broadway Month, a series of free events that will let fans meet artists, tour theatres, and even try their hand at singing and dancing.

"It's important for us to say, 'Thank you, loyal theatregoing public, for your enthusiasm and loyalty,'" says Charlotte St. Martin, the Broadway League's Executive Director. "All the excitement and events surrounding the Tony Awards are a great way to end the season, and it just seemed natural to create something equally exciting to celebrate the start of the season."

 Back2Broadway Month (B2B) will be anchored by the September 13 return of "Broadway on Broadway," the annual free concert in which stars of current and upcoming musicals gather to perform in Times Square. Michael McKean, who will appear on the Rialto this fall in Tracey Letts' play Superior Donuts, will host the event, which is scheduled to feature cast members from almost two dozen companies, including Bye Bye Birdie, Ragtime, Billy Elliot, and Hair.

The B2B calendar also includes popular League events like "Kids' Night on Broadway" performances, in which kids can see select shows for free with every adult ticket purchase, and the Broadway Flea Market and Grand Auction on September 27, a benefit for Broadway Cares/Equity Fight AIDS that features scores of Broadway stars selling memorabilia.

 B2B will feature new events as well. Tech-savvy fans can take part in a "Broadway Tweetup" on September 20, which will organize a real-world event for Broadway fans who use the online service Twitter. Meanwhile, anyone with happy feet can join the "Broadway Dance Studio" on September 18 or 25. The studio, which is actually outdoors in Times Square, lets hoofers take free lessons from current Rialto dancers.

Throw in events like karaoke nights, post-show discussions, free tours of Broadway theaters, and pre-theatre happy hours, and you get a very busy month.

Ideally, the diversity of B2B's programming will attract everyone from youngsters to seniors, from theatre newbies to seasoned pros. "We've tried to include something for every group," says Martin. "When you're providing something for everyone, you've got a much greater chance of letting everyone realize they can be involved."

** For a complete schedule of Back2Broadway Month events, visit www.ilovenytheater.com

Mark Blankenship has written for The New York Times, Variety, The Village Voice, and many others. He also edits The Critical Condition, an award-winning pop-culture criticism blog. (www.thecriticalcondition.com)