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Theater for all?

Live theater is an amazing creation. It allows actors bring stories to life right in front of an audience. Live theater creates and displays these scenes without any editing, just with a lot of practice. It is truly a great experience, but high ticket prices and inaccessibility to theater has caused a gap between live theater and the general public.

The average theater ticket for a Broadway show can be purchased for around $100, and that is only under the assumption that the show has not gained a ton of popularity. Such fame would cause ticket costs to skyrocket.  For example, a ticket to one of Broadway’s most sought-after show, “Hamilton,” has the potential to cost over $800. A lot of people would deem even the $100 too much to spend on a one time show in addition to the cost of traveling to New York. It is no wonder that a good portion of the population will not let themselves get into theater.

UMBC students actually have a bit of an advantage when it comes to our ability to access live theater. The campus is close to several theaters in Baltimore that offer professional grade theater as well as student discounts. For some theater kids at UMBC and in Maryland in general, it can feel like theater is everywhere, but when you think about people who live in states further away, you realize the obstacles that separate some individuals from the theater experience.

Something else that often comes up when talking about accessibility to theater is the controversial practice of watching bootlegs, illegally taped versions of a show that are put online for others to enjoy without having to purchase a ticket to the actual show. Many people are really opposed to bootlegs, but for many others, it is their only way to experience professional theater.

When asked about her opinion on bootlegs UMBC junior social work and psychology major Shayna Greenblatt said, “I can’t afford to go see a bunch of shows live, so they seem like the only way.”

However, UMBC senior media and communications major Andrew Grabowski was a little more hesitant on the issue, stating, “Inherently I’m against piracy of media, but in some circumstances, I think it’s harmless. ‘Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark’ is probably never going to return to Broadway or tour, so it’s not like anyone’s making money off of it, so what’s the harm in finding a bootleg? On a different end of the spectrum, Hamilton is likely not going anywhere anytime soon, but with the average ticket price consistently staying at hundreds and hundreds of dollars, some people may have zero means of seeing it if they don’t find a bootleg. I think in that circumstance, it’s also relatively harmless. When I would be opposed to bootlegs is circumstances in which you have the option to go see a show. If you know that tickets are affordable, whether on Broadway or your local theater, you should make the effort to support them before going immediately to piracy.”

Grabowski also offered some advice for people who want to experience theater but are unable to attend professional productions by saying, “Go to local productions whenever possible. If even that is impossible, the other forms of experiencing theatre are all digital. Listening to soundtracks, watching bootlegs, reading scripts.”

Seeing live theater in any setting can be expensive and sometimes difficult. Hopefully that will not detour any one from perusing an interest in theater. There are many ways to experience live theater without putting a dent in your pockets.