Dear Starshine,

How can I support my bad actor friends without having to sit through yet another badly produced, terribly acted "fringe" piece?

Good news! You don't have to go to any of those shows!

That's entirely untrue, of course. I was acting. Did you like my performance? I felt like it was a little rushed tonight. Something was off with the audience. What did you think? No, really, I want to know…

Look, actor friends are a needy bunch, and you totally have to go. But it's not your responsibility to boost box office sales, ensure a full house, or generate uproarious applause during your pals' curtain calls. Your job is merely to show up often enough (once a year? twice?) to see your friends' passion in action — to watch them do their thang and try to appreciate why they love it.

How do you let them know you won't be at every show? I say be blunt: "God help me, I love you thespians, but if I have to sit through seven hours of 'Angels in America' at the community center, I might actually die."

However you beg off, don't make excuses. It implies… well, that you need one. If your friend owned a restaurant, you wouldn't feel the need to eat there every week, or to apologize for not doing so. When your bad-actor buddy reminds you that his show opens Friday, simply say, "Can't make it this time, my friend. But break a leg — and I hope to hear all about it afterwards. Coffee next week?"

If you can remain friends with someone who stinks up a stage, then surely he or she can remain loyal to someone who doesn't live for poorly paced avant-garde one-acts. Performed kabuki-style. And set to a dub step beat.

In the future, though, when casting for the role of Your Friend, it might be wise to hold auditions.

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