30 Days of Tips for Attending the Performing Arts

Day 1: Introduction

November is national novel writing month, with people pledging to write a novel online in public (a gruesome spectacle) by completing a bit each day.

I’m not up for that, but it is a convenient excuse for doing 30 days of some kind of blogging and my coscreen-shot-2016-11-01-at-9-25-19-amntribution will be 30 thoughts on attending and appreciating live performing arts (one of the few areas were I can claim if not actual expertise, at least a lot of experience).

This is prompted by the realization that although for many attending a play, opera, symphony concert, ballet, or other performance is a pleasurable prospect, for others it can be a burden unto dread. This came out in a chat with a friend about my customary habit of checking out what the local venues have on when I travel to another city for work (more on this in a tip mid-month), and being lucky enough to catch some great things that way (one of Mattila’s final performances as Fidelio in Houston, for instance).

“But that’s such a lot of work was reply, getting the tickets, finding the place, and if it’s something hard studying up!”

Yes, there’s a little bit of prep, involved, but it doesn’t have to be onerous. To that end, here is the first tip.

 How do I find out what is going on? The answer to this is influenced by where you are  (be that home or travel destination). If you are in a big city, the daily newspaper (print and websites) and individual organization websites will have listings. There are non-profits that represent arts groups in many cities (Arts Boston) for instance, and they have calendars http://calendar.artsboston.org/.

The wealth of offerings in a big city can be daunting (I’ll get to that later in the month) so I don’t recommend being a maximizer in search of the absolute best opportunity. (But more anon on that puzzle).

In a small town or rural area, it may be harder to find out what is going on (although it frequently surprises people to learn that there are performing arts in their communities or within a reasonable drive). Most colleges and universities present both their own productions and touring shows.  Check out the calendar listings on their websites. Community centers, religious organizations, and civic groups also present concerts (and these are not necessarily related to being a member of the organization or a particular faith. In downtown D.C. Epiphany Episcopal Church presents a lunch time concert every Tuesday that is just a musical break for workers in nearby office buildings). Sixth and I Synagogue in D.C. has a lively program of music from all over the world. Museums (of many kinds) frequently have public performance programs as well. If you have a regional or local museum in your area, check out their calendar.

This advice (and most of the advice this month) is going to be heavy on classical stuff, only because it’s what I know. But there is also a whole world of pop, folk, jazz etc. with stuff happening in clubs, bookstores, cafes, and the like everywhere. Even the smallest town probably has a singer songwriter happy to have you in the audience for their bookstore debut, just keep your eyes open and see what you can find.

Tomorrow:  Presenters and producers and knowing what they do…

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