Oh, get your mind out of the gutter. I'm simply talking about perfectly benign yet nonetheless urgent habits that spring up in the normal course of abnormal amounts of theater.
Case in point: Playbills. Of course, I save all of my Playbills. Duh. I also take my ticket stub and insert it between the pages of the Playbill so that it sticks out on two different pages, sort of like a subscription card in a consumer magazine.
Also, about twenty years ago, I developed the habit of asking for two Playbills from my usher. At first, I said it was for a friend who couldn't come. Then I gave up all pretense and simply started asking for two. Only twice in all that time has an usher refused. (Ah, but I have backup plans. See below.) I recall one particularly surly wench at Lincoln Center who became downright belligerent. She spent the next few weeks trying to remove a flashlight from her forehead.
I used to ensconce one Playbill inside the other to safeguard one from weather and wear. Then I started bringing an appropriately-sized shopping bag. The ones for CDs from the late and lamented Virgin Superstore in Times Square were perfect, but since that store's demise I've also made do with the script-sized bags from Theater Circle on 44th Street, or the paper bags from The Drama Book Shop. Since I normally buy a script or two on most of my trips to New York, I typically have a bag on hand, but I also save bags from previous trips and pack one with my bus ticket and theater receipts.
Lately, I've been getting into the habit of appropriating a few extra Playbills for each show. The hope here is that I can eventually sell them on eBay once the show has long since closed. Often, I nonchalantly abscond with a few from the usher's pile behind the back row of any given section. I also have a habit of picking up discarded Playbills from the theater floor at the end of the show. This always feels a bit less illicit: these Playbills will only be thrown away in any case, and I'm actually helping the custodial staff, when you think about it. ("Yeah, Chris, whatever...")
Between shows, I used to make regular pilgrimages to Footlight Records and Triton Gallery, but the former has closed its retail shop, and the latter has moved to a location that is not at street level, and most of the time I can't be bothered to make the extra effort. I rarely get my tickets at TKTS, but I do make it a habit of walking by, just to see what's up on the board. I get an extra sort of charge when the show that I'm seeing isn't listed. (It's the little things, you know.) I'm not averse to TKTS. It's just that I'm rather specific about the shows that I want to see on any given trip, and I almost always arrange tickets ahead of time, whether through press agents or through such discount outlets as BroadwayBox, Theatermania, or Playbill.com.
Once I get home, I pull out my Playbill binder containing my various editions of the Stubs book of seating charts. Then I mark down which shows I saw in which theater, as well as which seat I sat in. I have four different versions of the Stubs book, because for some reason the people who publish it keep reducing the number of theaters listed therein. The current version lists mostly Broadway venues, but previous editions contained a good deal of Off Broadway as well. I keep the old copies to keep track of theaters that no longer exist (e.g. The Criterion Center, The John Houseman, etc.), as well as venues that are no longer listed (e.g. The Mitzi Newhouse, Second Stage, etc.). I also keep a Word file of all the shows I've ever seen anywhere in the world.
So, dear reader, what are your theater rituals? What borderline-compulsive activities do you engage in before, during, and after the show?