Editorial: Buying a ticket that can help you save CT's cities

The empty auditorium inside the Palace Theatre in Stamford, Conn. 

The empty auditorium inside the Palace Theatre in Stamford, Conn. 

Tyler Sizemore/Hearst Connecticut Media
The interior of the Shubert Theater in New Haven.

The interior of the Shubert Theater in New Haven.

Hearst Connecticut media

Need a gift idea for that relative who has everything?

We have suggestions. As a bonus, you might just boost Connecticut’s cities.

Few things serve as symbols of a city’s failings as effectively as the marquee of a vintage theater void of coming attractions.

It’s a silhouette that reminds visitors that a city was once host to traveling performers, and filled seats with residents for generations.

Theaters have plenty of competition these days from home theaters and computer games. The pandemic threatened to claim a lot of them as collateral damage, as box offices reported a 96 percent decline in ticket sales in 2020.

But they need to endure. Live performance has the power to nourish the soul of the individual, as well as the soul of a community. That might have been lost during the peak of social isolation.

State and federal lawmakers quickly recognized the need to help theaters bridge their path to the other side of the pandemic. But there is no substitute for patrons filling seats. And while it’s encouraging to see more performers getting back on the boards, there are still far too many empty slots on the theater calendars.

So think about adding some live shows to your holiday plans this December. There are plenty to choose from. There are various performances of “The Nutcracker,” at the Shubert in New Haven, the Bushnell in Hartford (a traditional staging as well as a hip-hop version on New Year’s Eve), the Garde in New London, Stamford’s Palace and other sites.

And if ballet is just not your jam, there are plenty of other offerings. Danbury’s Palace offers the Yale Whiffenpoofs, while the Bushnell is packed with yule possibilities, including the Hartford Symphony, Mannheim Steamroller, Holiday Cirque, Canadian Brass, and Travelers Chorale.

For those who need relief from December glitter, Waterbury’s Palace has “Chicago,” the Shubert presents “A Soldier’s Play,” and the Garde hosts the Indigo Girls.

There is, of course, a lot more to found as well. But there’s also a lot missing. Many theaters will be dimly illuminated only be their fabled ghost lights on too many December nights. They won’t survive without a return of patrons, many of whom remain reluctant to join crowds for health reasons.

That’s understandable. There may not be too many masks on the faces of fans at sporting events, but they are still a wise option in theaters.

Cautious theatergoers might prefer smaller venues. Community theaters throughout the state remain treasures. Curtain Call in Stamford presents “She Loves Me” in December, while Brookfield Theater revives “Hamlet” and has a lineup card filled out through December 2023. Other options include Sacred Heart Community Theatre in Fairfield, Westport Country Playhouse, Bridgeport's Bijou Theatre, Bregamos Community Theater in New Haven, Connecticut Theater Company in New Britain, Landmark in Thomaston, Little Theatre of Manchester …

You get the idea. There’s a seat out there for everybody, and many of the venues are works of art themselves.

For the individual, the experience can be cathartic. For that relative who has everything, there is a bottomless stocking of 2023 treasures to consider. Welcome (back) to the show.