It’s delightful, it’s delicious, it’s dlevy! On Theatrical Souvenirs

Originally published on It’s delightful, it’s delicious, it’s dlevy!

When I was little, my parents took me to see a lot of live theater. At first, our excursions were primarily to community theaters and semi-professional productions. When I was eight years old, they took me to my first “first-class” production, the first national tour of Big River. I was already familiar with the show from our cassette of the original cast recording, but I was so swept away by the magic of theater that I was hooked for life. Before long, that cassette was supplemented by a paperback copy of the script and the piano/vocal selections of the score. I loved the show so much, I wanted to own a piece of it, and this was how I did it.

Although my next trip to see a national tour wasn’t until the following year (Tim Curry in Me and My Girl, equally magical), my theater-going habit quickened as I got older. When I was ten years old, my parents took me to Broadway for the first time. I believe the first show we saw on that trip was Anything Goes at Lincoln Center, then starring Leslie Uggams. The trip also included catching A Chorus Line and Into the Woods, both at the tail ends of their original Broadway runs.

My parents built a trip to Shubert Alley into the trip, and told me that instead of getting a souvenir at one of the shows, I could get one souvenir at Shubert Alley or one of the equivalent shops. I ended up with an Anything Goes sweatshirt that I wore for years. I was a very gay little child.

That trip began setting good habits around theatrical souvenirs. My parents made it clear that I couldn’t buy the souvenir program for every show or, as much as it pains me, create an entire wardrobe from Broadway show t-shirts. At some point they instilled in me the idea that the souvenir programs were only worth it for shows that featured stars. Consequently, the only one I have from my childhood is Tommy Tune in Bye Bye Birdie. Yes, even at the cusp of puberty I knew exactly what qualified as a star in my mind. (The rest of the cast was nothing to sneeze at — Lenora Nemetz as Rosie, and pre-famous Susan Egan and Marc Kudisch as Kim and Conrad.)

In college, I bought exactly two t-shirts and one souvenir program: a t-shirt from the Cabaret revival, in part because the shirt itself was hot and in part because I so loved that production; a t-shirt from Titanic because I was so overwhelmed (and surprised!) by my feelings for that show, I wanted to contribute extra money to the production’s success; and a program from The Lion King, because I wanted to relive the gorgeous staging and dissect the theatrical craftsmanship of Julie Taymor.

Since then, I’ve mostly stayed away from buying souvenirs. I save Playbills and have mountains of cast recordings, and that seems to be enough for me. But last week, I brought home two new additions to my collection: an Anything Goes tumbler and a Encores! mug. The former was simply a byproduct of really needing a diet Coke at intermission, and it will likely live on as a pen-holder on my desk at work. The Encores! mug, which features logos from all three shows from this season, is the best kind of souvenir: something that recalls a cherished experience.

This was my first season as a subscriber, and each show was momentous in a different way. I loved that subscribing to a season of theater from a company I love felt like another step into the adulthood I’ve been denying has already been a part of my life for a good twelve years at least. I loved the shows themselves. I loved that each trip into New York to see the shows enabled me to get together with my new circle of friends developed through discussions of the theater on Twitter and Tumblr. I love that I own a piece of merchandise for Pipe Dream — how many people in the history of the world can say that? And I love that when I drink from this mug, all those feelings (of adulthood, of community, of theatrical excellence) come together.

I don’t know when or if I might buy my next piece of theatrical swag. (One never knows when an emergency diet Coke becomes necessary, for example.) But I know that saving my money to buy more tickets rather than glossy programs or hats (does anyone… oh, never mind) has served me well thus far. And if you happen upon me and notice that I’m wearing a new Broadway t-shirt or drinking from a mug with the logo from 2015’s smash-hit revival of High Button Shoes, you can know that from me, that’s about as strong an endorsement I give.

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