Marissa Skudlarek continues her madcap intellectual adventures around the San Francisco theater scene, and this week takes on that love-hate relationship with theater subscription that so many of us have in common.
I am a fickle, flirtatious woman. Like so many members of my generation, the so-called Millennials, I am commitment-phobic, perhaps to the point of caprice. I run around town, setting my schedule at the last minute, always in the throes of some new fling or obsession, always eager to see what’s out there, unwilling to settle for something less than optimal.
If you’re a more old-fashioned type, you’re getting fed up with my lack of faithfulness and the way I chafe when asked to follow a well-ordered schedule. Moreover, you’re wondering if maybe you’re doing something wrong, and asking how you can ever conquer my fickle heart.
Well, let me tell you something: it’s not you, it’s me. Actually, scratch that – it might have something to do with you, in that I’m just not that tempted by what you have to offer me anymore. But it also might be, as I said, my own disinclination to make long-term commitments. Theater companies of the Bay Area, unless I love you, I mean really love you, I’m not going to buy a subscription package.
(What? You thought this column was about my dating life? That’s a different story.)
I’ll tell you something, though, theater companies: when you lose me, you take it hard and you don’t give up easily. Especially if I pledged you my loyalty and devotion last year, but decided not to re-up on my subscription for next season. My goodness, the persistence you have in trying to win me back! But I’m too much of a coward to tell you flat-out, “I’m not going to subscribe this year.” Especially because I don’t want to burn bridges with you – what if, next year, you program a really sexy season of shows and I’m crazy about you again?
So I ignore your phone calls, Theater Company I Used to Subscribe To. I’ve got your number programmed into my phone and everything, just so that when it rings, I can see that it’s you, and not pick up. Call me a bitch if you like; I’ve heard worse from the homeless guy on the corner.
Some of you are more persistent and demanding than others, almost to the point of arrogance. All right, I can understand that if I subscribed to you last year, you want to see if I’m willing to make the same commitment again. But what about the theater company that I saw one show at, two years ago, and have been fielding calls from ever since? (It’s not even that I disliked the show, but the company in question is a bit out-of-the-way for me and I can’t commit to going there multiple times a year.) Or what about the theater company in Portland? I moved away four years ago, but they still call me occasionally to remind me of the good times we had together!
And, oddly, some of the biggest, most powerful folks in town are the most desperate for my money, my loyalty, my love. San Francisco Opera is bombarding me with emails trying to convince me to spend $325 on a gala opening-night ticket; ACT just sent me an email asking me to spend $500 to be on the host committee of their MFA benefit luncheon. Do I look like a lady who lunches? (My well-documented love of Sondheim notwithstanding.) They ought to know that I am young and certainly not wealthy, but they demand from me more than I can possibly give!
Yes, I do get irritated by some of you theater companies, with your puppy-dog faithfulness, your persistent phone calls, the outrageous commitments you believe I will make if only you badger me frequently enough. But generally speaking, I bear you no ill will. We’re in the same business, you and I, so I know how hard it is. I know that on the other end of the line is an overworked, underpaid young box-office staffer, which is why I feel it is more merciful to ignore the phone call than to break his heart by telling him “No, thank you.” But I’m a busy girl, and if I said yes to every suitor that’s after me, I’d be giving up too much of my time and money. I have to be discriminating.
Ideally, Theater Company, you’d realize that I still like you a lot – I’m just not on board with everything you have to offer. I might still spend a few evenings with you in the coming year, but I’m not ready to make a wholehearted commitment to you. A subscriber is, I suppose, a “friend with benefits.” But, you know, I’m not ready for that. Can’t we be just friends?
Marissa Skudlarek is a playwright and arts writer. If you want to subscribe to her, she’s on Twitter @MarissaSkud.