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Hello, Theatre

Date: Apr 09, 2008


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Karen D. Taylor still vividly remembers her very first play. Her mother took her to see Hello, Dolly! on Broadway, starring Pearl Bailey.

"I was so fascinated by all this live action going on onstage, I was just hooked," recalls Taylor, a Queens native who now works as a grant writer for nonprofit arts organizations, and on the side sings jazz and writes poetry and creative non-fiction. "After that, my mother took my brother and me to the theatre all the time, both the musicals and the dramas."

Thus another avid theatregoer was born. Years later, Taylor heard about a great way to sate her appetite for live performance.

"When I heard about TDF, I just fell in love with it," says Taylor, who estimates that she first became a TDF member in the early 1980s. "That was before the Internet, so they'd send papers out every other day with selections." It was with TDF discount tickets that Taylor caught August Wilson's first play, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom.

Years later, Taylor moved and didn't update her address, and she and TDF lost track of each other. She can thank today's hyper-connected Internet age for a happy reunion.

"I found TDF again on the computer one day, and I was like, 'Yay, yay, yay!' " Taylor effuses. "Now I check the site twice or three times a day for deals. And when I go to the actual Broadway theatre district, I see all the marquees of the plays and I think, 'Wow, I could actually see these plays that people are paying $100 for--I can see some of them for $30!' It makes me really excited."

It's not just Broadway shows she loves.

"I've seen Alvin Ailey a few times, and I love Dance Brazil," Taylor enthuses. "And I lucked out and saw a gorgeous show with a bunch of pianists that included Geri Allen at Jazz at Lincoln Center, which would have cost me $100 but was about a third of that."

Voicing a distaste that's common among many pop and jazz musicians, Taylor is not a huge fan of Broadway musicals, and instead tends to prefer plays. Favorites in recent years have included Sarah Jones' Bridge & Tunnel and Joan Didion's Year of Magical Thinking, which, Taylor recalls, "made me revisit Didion's essays, which I'd read a long time ago. She can take a common occurrence and create this whole universe around just her thoughts. I enjoyed the play, though of course it was sad."

Not so downbeat was a show she caught at B.B. King's blues club with jazz cornetist Olu Dara (another TDF deal). "He's a real character," Taylor says. "He would be great doing a solo show." She also enjoyed Celia, a bio-play about salsa queen Celia Cruz, to which she took mother, the child of immigrants from Barbados. "She enjoyed that, and I thought the musical peformances were really good."

Less appealing to her was The Color Purple. "I saw it because Chaka Khan was in it, and I love Chaka Khan," Taylor says. "But I thought the whole concept of that as a musical was just absurd."

She says she's looking forward to seeing the new revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and hopes to catch Sam Shepard's new play, Kicking a Dead Horse, at the Public Theatre in June. She says she still marvels at the role that TDF has played in her theatregoing life.

"Last year I saw Radio Golf, August Wilson's last play, with a TDF discount," Taylor says. "To go from Ma Rainey to Radio Golf--that's just awesome to me. Now, I wasn't lucky enough to see all his plays through TDF, but I think it's a great thing that it's still around. Most of the theatre that I have seen from that time through now has been through TDF. I could never have afforded it otherwise."

For information about TDF membership, click here.