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Feeding Her Habit

Date: May 29, 2008


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Queens native Ravelle Brickman was raised by theatre-loving parents who "loved City Center when it was really a palace for the people--they used to sit up in the balcony and use their opera glasses."

As much as she cherishes that memory--along with memories of her parents taking her to original productions of Oklahoma!, The Threepenny Opera and Kiss Me, Kate--she has one up on her parents. Now, thanks to her longtime TDF membership, Ravelle says, "I don't use my opera glasses--I get good seats, so I don't have to."

That's not the only thing she relishes about her TDF membership, through which she has access to hundreds of theatre and dance and music tickets at greatly reduced prices. The main benefit, she explains, is that it keeps her theatregoing a habit, not a luxury.

"My TDF membership allows me to go to the theatre often, not just on special occasions," says Brickman, an instructor in NYU's Center for Marketing and longtime public-relations professional. "I typically go two or three times a month, and I have a circle of theatregoing friends."

Another upside of TDF membership: that circle of friends keeps expanding.

"I'm finding it's easy to go alone to the theatre, because TDF audiences are very warm and welcoming and friendly," Ravelle explains. "When I get TDF tickets, I'm always in a row with other TDF members, and people swap seats and talk to each other. I didn't know that for the longest time, because if you buy two seats or more, as I always used to, you don't notice it because you're talking to the people you came with."

Despite her early theatregoing including so many musical classics, Brickman says that she and her friends are "not musical people," though she makes an exception for Sondheim and for a chamber musical like Caroline, or Change. Possibly most valuable for an adventurous playgoer like Brickman, the TDF prices "allow for risk-taking, which is very important for anybody who loves the theatre. They allow me to go to plays I've never heard of, or that had lukewarm reviews, and I discover new actors and writers."

Some of her recent discoveries include Kathleen Chalfant in Howard Barker's A Hard Heart ("The great antiwar play of our time, and one of the great evenings of theatre"); Charles Mee, who just had a season of plays at the Signature Theatre ("I saw Queens Blvd., which was just wonderful, and now I'm a Mee fan") and the popular but unevenly reviewed Aaron Sorkin play The Farnsworth Invention ("Fantastic--I gave it a standing ovation").

She mentioned another play she saw recently that she didn't care for, though she enjoyed the acting. Far from complaining, Ravelle says she values near-misses nearly as much as knockouts.

"I don't find I have to like everything," Brickman says. "I find it very interesting to see plays that are flawed. It's a reminder of how difficult it is to make a play work. If you only see one play a year, and it's Pulitzer Prize winner, you forget how remarkable it is."

Brickman won't soon forget her introduction to the theatre: Her parents took her to the original Oklahoma!, purposely purchasing tickets in the back row of the orchestra so that Ravelle and her brother could sit on the backs of the chairs and see the stage more clearly.

"The ushers were amused, but they let us do it, since there was no one behind us," Ravelle recalls warmly. Other fond theatregoing memories include seeing the Lunts in several plays, as well as seeing Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh perform Antony and Cleopatra and Caesar and Cleopatra, back to back, at the City Center. "Both nights I bought standing room tickets--at $2 each--and both times managed to sneak into wonderful seats, down front on the aisle, after the curtain went up."

Brickman also recalls seeing Patricia Neal in The Children's Hour--and then seeing her on the train immediately after!

"I think I was 16, and I was so caught up in the play, it never dawned on me that she could be a real person who sat on the subway," Ravelle marvels. "I spoke to her and said, ‘I just saw you in The Children's Hour,' and she said, ‘Did you like it?' I said yes and just about fainted!"

Brickman is particularly pleased with the way TDF membership works in the Internet age. She recalls the days when it was done by mail and by lottery: Members had to pick three scheduling options and wait to find out which they'd landed.

"I used to write down those three possible nights in pencil on my calendar," Ravelle recounts. "Now I know immediately what I've got. It's instant gratification."

Her list of upcoming plans include John Lithgow's solo show, Stories By Heart; Edward Albee's play Occupant, with Mercedes Ruehl as sculptor Louise Nevelsono; A.R. Gurney's The Cocktail Hour; the controversial Broadway revival of Caryl Churchill's Top Girls, and August: Osage County, which Ravelle has been trying to get to for months. "When the tickets come up online, they go immediately. But I'm prepared--I check the listing every day to see if anything has crept on."

Ravelle's happy experiences with TDF have even included last year's jaunt to Peru with TDF Travel.

"I'm wary of group tours, and I didn't think I would like it," Brickman confesses. "But I was pleasantly surprised. There were 28 people, and every one of them was a theatre lover. It had not dawned on me that all of us would be TDF members, and hence theatre lovers. We had so much in common. It was great trip."

Among Ravelle's travels are regular trips to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. A Manhattanite who's lived in New York her whole life, but for one two-year period when she lived in London, she says she admires the Brits' approach to the theatregoing.

"Over there it's casual and frequent and inexpensive," Ravelle says. Come to think of it, this is another way her membership comes in handy: "TDF allows me to go to the theatre the way I did in London."

Mission accomplished.

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