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Once school's out for summer, I always find myself with so much more free time, but I know that just because I have all this free time doesn't mean I need to break the bank and blow my savings on having fun. As a huge theater lover, I've perfected the art of seeing high-quality, amazing professional shows for low ticket prices. Whether it's a Broadway show, a national tour, or just a local community theater production, there's always a way to get discounted or free tickets. Here are some of my top insider tips on getting those coveted cheap seats:
1. Pay What You Can (PWYC)
First, check the websites of your local regional theaters for their summer performance calendars. Many theater companies will offer a couple of preview performances while they work out the technical elements. Because these shows haven't officially opened yet to the public, theaters will offer tickets to these performances at reduced prices or even "pay what you can" (PWYC) rates. PWYC is exactly as it sounds: you pay whatever amount you want and get tickets that can be regularly priced at hundreds of dollars. Last year, while I was at school in DC, I saw a preview performance of Angels in America: Millennium Approaches at Forum Theater and paid $5 for front row seats that normally cost $25. Sometimes, it's even possible to get orchestra seats as low as $50 for a Broadway show during their first two weeks of previews.
2. Rush Tickets
Since most theaters don't fully sell out, there's always the possibility of scoring rush or lottery tickets. These are usually exclusive for students and require your school ID to get them, but if you do get them, they're seriously discounted (generally $25 to $30) and sometimes in prime locations. Each show has a different policy regarding student tickets, but last summer, while I was living in New York, I saw the Broadway revival of HAIR twice by winning their ticket lottery and getting $25 tickets in their "be-in" boxes at the front of the mezzanine. These tickets would have normally cost me $80 to $100, but I was able to see it twice for less than the price of one normal ticket with my student ID. Some theaters have a first come, first served policy for student tickets and will put aside a certain number for each performance: she who gets there first with her ID scores the discounted seat. Most regional theaters and touring houses have information on student discounts on their websites. For more on Broadway, check out this article on Broadway Rush Policies from Playbill.com.
3. Group Rates & Single Tickets
Another great way to see high-quality performances at cheap prices is to go with a group. If you're a theater lover like me, then I'm sure you have plenty of friends who would love a night out at a show. Get a group together and look into different policies on group ticket rates. Most theaters are quick to offer discounts on tickets for groups of 10 or more. On the opposite end of the spectrum, many theaters will also offer discounts on single tickets because they want a full house and it's harder to sell a random seat by itself. It can be really empowering and enjoyable to go see a show you really want to see by yourself, especially when it means a sweet discount!
4. Discount Tickets Booths & Websites
If you've ever been to NYC then you've probably walked through Times Square and noticed the TKTS booth, listing all the shows being offering with discounted ticket rates for that night. What many people don't know is that lots of other cities have similar booths with discounted offers on shows and attractions, like BosTix in Boston. It's also worth taking a minute to create an account with Goldstar, which sends out weekly emails with updates on discounted theater tickets in your area and has coverage nationwide. (Definitely a useful resource for people looking to see shows on a budget!) Personally, I also love the hiptix program through Roundabout Theater Company in NYC. If you join their program, you can get $20 tickets to any of their shows during each season. (Sometimes cheaper for loyal members!)
5. Email, Newsletters & Social Media
Twitter is also extremely helpful in finding out about discounts, coupon codes, and ticket contests for local theaters. If you frequent a theaters in your area, see if they have a Twitter account or Facebook page, or even sign up for their email newsletter to track their deals and discounts. Pay close attention to announcements about audience deals, contests, and special events. Even if you can't get cheaper tickets just by following them or being on their mailing list, you might get exclusive info on special events and talkbacks.
Story: Copyright 2010, Shoestring, LLC. Photo: iStock.