I had a close friend who really had the nerves and blood of a gambler, truly cut from a different cloth. If we both went to the racetrack with $20, I was inclined to place $2 bets on favored horses over 10 races; my friend was completely comfortable putting his entire stake on a 17 to 1 long shot in one race to win. Not even a place (2nd) or show (3rd) bet, just the whole thing on one horse to win.
It is not that I didn't like the thrill of winning at such long odds. It is that I hate losing, especially my entire stake in one bet. In finance, terms like risk averse, risk tolerance and the risk/reward ratio are frequently used. Brokers of investment products are forever promising above average returns at what is represented to be little risk. Investor's folly.
To some extent, risk/reward applies to entertainment and services. People who can afford it will spend more for a greater likelihood of better entertainment - a $100 ticket at the Metropolitan Opera will usually buy an evening of superb talent.
But often, established theater becomes too risk averse and, in order to not disappoint, becomes more formulaic, relying on standard repertoire or remakes of older successful shows. Enter the world of Off-Off Broadway, experimental theatre, improv and open mikes. Here, however, one must often suffer the slings and arrows of the outrageously bad performance. Nearly every successful performer started somewhere, but not everyone that starts somewhere goes anywhere - a fact one is likely to reflect on while passing time watching painful acts.
However, rules don't always apply, and one of the great things about New York City is that there are plenty of great values and even free lunches. But, as the costs for everything rise, the edgy and offbeat become more difficult to find.
At 94 St. Marks Place in the East Village, you will find a small underground theater, literally and figuratively. UNDER St. Marks is run by Horse Trade, a self-sustaining theater development group that also runs Kraine Theatre, The Red Room, and Frigid New York. It was founded in 1998 by Russell Dobular, Kimo DeSean, and Erez Ziv, three former Central Park horse-drawn carriage drivers. UNDER St. Marks has been an experimental theatre space since the 1970’s.
The theater is home to a variety of performances - Tuesday nights feature Penny's Open Mic where anyone gets a 7-minute shot at stardom. See their website here.
UNDER St. Marks is one of New York City's last stands in independent theater. Take a chance down those steps at 94 ST. Mark's, and for a small $3 wager I am sure you will find the odds of a good time much better than 17 to 1 :)
Note: The term "Broadway theater" refers to a group of 39 theaters defined both by size (minimum of 500 seats) and location in the theater district. Off-Broadway and Off-Off Broadway theaters are defined by size, not location: Off-Broadway has between 100 and 500 seats and Off-Off-Broadway fewer than 100 seats.