Before coming to college, I was afraid on how my little income would support my obsession of seeing shows. In high school, my parents were incredibly supportive of my appreciation for the arts and helped me out when needed. I love exposing myself to new shows and I did not want money to prevent me from doing that, especially in a city that is so full of culture and theatre.

In the two months I have been in Boston for school, I have seen four professional productions (five performances in total – I saw one twice). Not including transportation, I have paid a total of $55 for those five shows; in every show I had full view of the stage. I am here to say it is possible for people on a budget to still see theatre.

Of course, $10-20 tickets are not going to present themselves to you. You have to seek them out. I am here to tell you some ways I have found cheap tickets and other ways as well!

One time, this many people waited for tickets to Hair in 2010. ...Always check BroadwaySpotted first.

One time, this many people waited for tickets to Hair in 2010. …Always check BroadwaySpotted first.

Of course, if you live in New York City, there are many ways to get discounted tickets. The most common and easiest way is through rush tickets. You have to line up at the box office and a designated number of discounted tickets will be available on a first come, first serve basis. So all you have to do is wait in line? Well, it sounds great but there’s usually a catch: you have to line up early if it’s a popular show. I lined up at 8 AM for The Cripple of Inishmaan starring Daniel Radcliffe this summer, and got the last three rush tickets of the two-show day. Other shows have much shorter lines, and you may still be able to get tickets if you come right as the box office opens. BroadwaySpotted’s Rush Report gives weekly statistics on how many people rushed the show and give a good estimate on how early you should show up.

Not all theatres require early morning waits on the street, though. Recently, I saw Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street at the Lyric Stage Theatre in Boston. There, I had to arrive at the theatre an hour before the show and put my name down. Then, they announced thirty minutes before curtain who got the tickets, also based on first come, first serve. I got to the theatre at an hour and a half before curtain, was the second person to put my name down, and found out minutes shy of curtain that my friend and I got the two last rush tickets of the day. We spent $10 each on a phenomenal production of the show with full view of the stage.

Another popular way is the lotto system. Here, you arrive at the theatre around an hour before the show and enter your name in a lottery for a predetermined number of tickets. The pros of this method is it does not require too long of a wait, but it is completely random. Rush Report also provides numbers of how many people enter the lotto, so you can see your chances. This method is not as popular with non-Broadway shows, though.

Seeing theatre on a budget in NYC? Try TKTS.

The beautiful new TKTS booth in Times Square.

TKTS, also only Broadway and off-Broadway, is another way to get discounted tickets. A ticket booth, TKTS goes off availability and only sell the day of the show. If you don’t want to go to the physical booth, you can check out an app similar to it, called TodayTix. The app tells you which shows have discounted tickets up to a week in advance.

Some shows offer standing room tickets as well. Each theatre varies in their methods to provide these tickets. Essentially, a theatre offers a designated number of tickets to people who are willing to pay a discounted price to stand the entire show. When I saw Finding Neverland at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, I went to the box office hours after it opened and still managed to get three standing room tickets to the Broadway-bound show. The ticket was only $25, and if you present a student ID, it was only $15.

Being a student paves the way for many discounts, especially in a college town such as Boston. The second time I saw Finding Neverland, I only paid $10 through a program at my school. I was seated in the center back row with full view of the stage. I saw Speakeasy Stage Company’s production of the Boston premiere of Far From Heaven for free through my school’s theatre department. Two days later, I saw Assassins at the New Repertory Theatre in Watertown, MA for $20, also through the theatre department of my school. I am not a theatre major, and I still had the opportunity to see two shows at a discounted price. If you’re a student, check to see whether your theatre department has similar offers!

Opportunities to see discounted shows may come up more often than one may think. Theaters know many students are on a budget, but it should not prevent them from being cultured in theatre. Discounted tickets are an incredibly important way for a new generation of young people to see theatre so that they may become a generation of theatre-goers in the future.

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One Response to Theatre on a Budget

  1. maggie says:

    Another way of seeing shows, if you live in a city, is to volunteer as an usher. Not all theaters work this way but at some you can agree to usher for a certain number of shows each year and then see the show when you usher. This applies more to smaller cities and requires some work on your part but I think we can all agree it is well worth it.

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