Theatre on a Budget: An introduction to affordable theatre

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Theatre can be expensive. How expensive? Broadway tickets have risen during the recession to an average of $93 per ticket, while regional theaters are approaching a new high of $35 per ticket over the same period. Yet this curious fact remains: an expensive show like Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark tickets cost anywhere from $49-$399. Does this mean that you can spend a night at the theater for less than your monthly metro card? You bet. The cheap tickets are definitely not front row but they are tickets. Also, there are other ways to see theatre on the cheap, whether you are in New York City or Dallas, Texas. Here are five ways you can visit the theater without breaking the bank:

1. Take advantage of your local theater’s rush ticket or student ticket discounts. First, for those not in the know, “rush tickets” are unsold tickets leftover in the box office and ready to be sold to the lucky person willing to wait in line for an hour (or several) before the show. Usually all it takes is arriving early enough to snag a place in line and reading a book or people-watching until curtain. Sometimes rush discounts apply only to students so check before you go. Speaking of students, theaters love courting younger crowds, so if you have a student ID to flash at the ticket booth you can probably enjoy a discounted ticket or two. Student discount tickets are sometimes available in limited quantities so check ahead. Information on both types of discount policy is usually available from the box office, by phone or on the theater’s website.

2. Speaking of websites, go and familiarize yourself with your favorite theaters’ homepages. Not only will it give you directions, a way to purchase tickets the expensive way and helpful information on rush and student policies, it will give you an “in” to finding cheap tickets. Any special discounts available to the public will usually be found on the homepage. Also, subscribe to their newsletter. Some discounts are specifically offered to people who subscribe and these newsletters also include information about special events like parties, talk-backs and artist meet-and-greets that give you more bang for your buck.

3. Follow your favorite theaters and artists on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. Tech-savvy ticket sellers are now going to social media to promote their shows. By following actor Zach Braff on Twitter, I had the opportunity to purchase tickets to his new off-Broadway show at a nice discount. This is a great way to get up-to-the-minute offers on shows and theaters you already like without waiting for the weekly newsletter to arrive in your inbox. Next time you check your Facebook and Twitter you could look at funny cat pictures and score sweet discount tickets at the same time.

4. This article is about cheap theatre but what about free? Some theaters will let you see the show for free if you volunteer to usher beforehand. This probably will not happen in a Broadway house, but smaller theaters in New York and across the country usually offer an “usher for tickets” program. Call your box office to ask for details, and since it never hurts to ask, see if you can work out a deal with the box office manager. Ushering for tickets is fun to do by yourself or with a friend and the feel-good combination of volunteering and a free show is hard to beat.

5. Finally, make friends in the theater. Once you are plugged in on the internet, familiar with your favorite theaters and ushering every so often, you have everything you need to put on a friendly face and strike up a conversation. If you intend to see theatre on a regular basis, or already do, you will meet many of the same people. Make friends with these regulars and get involved. Theatre people are, for the most part, happy and social creatures who love talking about theatre, so pick their brains about what shows to see, when to see them and how to score the best tickets. Theatre people will be your best all-around resource for seeing theatre on the cheap.

There are plenty of other ways to score free or cheap tickets that have not been mentioned, so if you would like to hear more, let us know in the comments. Also, tell us your favorite way to see cheap theatre, and you might see it in our next article or our upcoming weekly report, Theatre on a Budget.

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4 Responses

  1. Katherine, thanks! I really agree. There’s not too much that beats saving money and seeing a great show at the same time.

  2. Love this! I love seeing shows and getting dolled up for them and buying tickets in advance but honestly, some of the most fun times have come from me rushing shows with my friends so definitely a great article for people who aren’t Broadway based!

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