By MARK BLANKENSHIP
These days, there are always people wandering through Times Square in costumes, but last Wednesday, you could see more than dubious panhandlers in knockoff Elmo drag.
Milling around the red steps of the TKTS booth, there were over a dozen TDF employees dressed like classic characters from plays and musicals. There was a Cinderella, a Big Bad Wolf, and even a Reno Sweeney. Their costumes came from TDF's Costume Collection, and they all represented characters whose shows that have been supported by discount ticket sales at TKTS.
This summer marks the 40th anniversary of the Booth, and last Wednesday was a key moment in the celebration. Celebrities, city officials, and theatre fans gathered in front the red steps for performances, exciting announcements, and the official proclamation that June 26, 2013 was "TKTS Day" in the city of New York.
As she kicked off the event, TDF's executive director Victoria Bailey reminded the crowd that when it began, the Booth wasn't guaranteed to succeed. "It's almost impossible to believe, looking around today, but when TKTS opened 40 years ago, Times Square was kind of a scary place and lots of people didn't want to come here," she said. "The Booth was an experiment. The Parks Department, the city, and the theatre community wanted to see what would happen if you put a legitimate business in Times Square."
Decades later, that experiment is still growing. When Kate Levin, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, presented the proclamation announcing TKTS Day, she noted that the Booth has sold over 58 million discounted tickets to theatre lovers. "Many of them had money left over to buy their own pair of kinky boots," she added.
That joke was appropriate, since Harvey Fierstein, the six-time Tony Award-winner who wrote the book for Kinky Boots, was on hand to accept the proclamation.
Along with Broadway actress Julie Halston (Anything Goes, Hairspray), Fierstein also announced a new TKTS program called the 7 Day Fast Pass. Starting now, anyone who buys a ticket at the Times Square booth can come back any time in the next seven days, show the ticket they purchased, and be ushered to a special, shorter line.
The 7 Day Fast Pass is designed to encourage repeat theatre going, and as Halston pointed out, it can also save patrons time. "This means you can go to restaurants. You can go to the park. You can go to a hotel," she said. "I won't ask any questions."
"Julie!" Fierstein replied. "You and I can get a hotel room!"
"That's right, and we'll make history. I like Le Parker Meridien. It's been renovated."
Instead of booking a room, however, Halston stuck around to host the rest of the event. The cast of Forbidden Broadway, the musical revue that parodies Broadway musicals, sang a special song about TKTS, and then the audience got a chance to bask in the spotlight: Winners of a TDF contest performed musical theatre karaoke, belting out legit hits like "What I Did for Love, " "Luck Be a Lady Tonight," and "I Dreamed a Dream."
Those karaoke singers were a reminder that TKTS is always a place where artists and audiences can come together to celebrate the theatre.
Mark Blankenship is TDF's online content editor