This is the final post in the Cheap Theater Series. Here I give you some creative ideas on how you can go to the theater and other live performances at a low or even no cost. Below are the three previous post for the series.
You want to see to see a show, but you can’t volunteer. You tried to win tickets, but had no luck, and the show you want to see isn’t at a school and/or you’re not student who can save money on tickets. Is all hope of seeing a cheap or free performance lost? Do you pay full price for a ticket? Hell no. You get creative with the tips below.
Be Flexible with When You Go
Unless it’s only a one-night performance, you can probably be a bit flexible on the date/time of the show you’re seeing. A weekday matinee performance will likely cost less than seeing a show on the weekend. Some venues might have the option to buy cheaper tickets for a dress rehearsal performance, before the actual run of the show starts.
Another option to save money on tickets is to see if the products has a pay-what-you-can performance. These are specific performances where the audience can set their own price for their ticket. Attending a pay-what-you-can performance can save you money, but it is also important to note that you should pay what you are able to for the performance. If the show suggests a price of $20/ticket and you can afford to pay $20 then pay $20.
Be Flexible With Where You Sit (or Stand)
Sitting further back from the stage, even on a balcony, can mean cheaper tickets. Obstructed-view tickets will also be reduced in price. It might be worth it to get an obstructed view ticket for seeing something like a symphony concert (unless your heart is set on seeing the musicians perform). Some shows or venues may offer standing only tickets. Just be warned that standing only tickets are exactly how they sound – you’ll be standing for the entire show. Make sure that’s something you’ll be able to do for the full duration of the show.
Sign Up for Newsletters and Daily Deal Sites
A lot of theater venues and groups have newsletters where you enter your email and can get notified of deals for performances. My friends and I have scored $25 tickets to Cabaret in New York City thanks to signing up for The Roundabout Theatre Company email. A lot of theater groups and venues have email subscriptions and newsletters that can help save you money on upcoming tickets.
Checking daily deal websites like Groupon or Travelzoo can also help you find tickets for shows at a reduced rate. Remember to check the deals for the cities or regions you’ll be traveling to, as well for deals close to home.
Attend a Local, Regional, or Smaller Production of a Show
One of the best productions of a musical I’ve ever seen was a production of Cabaret at The Citadel Theatre in Edmonton. I went with a friend, and our tickets were about $25/each. Just because you’re seeing a show at a smaller venue doesn’t mean the show will be bad. You don’t have to be in New York City or London (or another large city) to see quality live theater and other performances. If a regional or smaller theater is putting on a show that you want to see then why not go? You could find yourself seeing something fantastic.
Look for Last Minute Deals
The TKTS booth in New York City is famous for offering great deals (sometimes up to 50% off) tickets for Broadway and Off-Broadway shows. Depending on your budget you might not see this as cheap, but compared to regular price tickets this can be a great deal.
It’s not just in New York where you can save money on show tickets. A lot of cities have box offices where you can get same-day discounted tickets. In Toronto, there is a discount ticket booth at Dundas Square. In Las Vegas, you can check the Tix 4 Tonight kiosks around The Strip. Even touring productions of shows that have come to Edmonton (where I live) have had the same day and last minute deals on tickets.
Download the Today Tix App
Chances are you have an Apple or Android smartphone. If you do and are looking to travel or are in New York, Connecticut, Chicago, Boston, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Toronto, or London (UK) then you should download the Today Tix app. It gives you the ability to buy discounted tickets for shows in these cities. If you enter the promo code you’ll get $10 JGZYL (£10 in London) off your first show purchase. You can also enter show lotteries through the app so you don’t have to stand in line at the theatre. Win win.
Check The Paper and Get Online
A lot of cities have free newspapers that list upcoming events and shows. Check out to see if there are any free or cheap events going on where you live. You might see a play, or hear a poetry reading. If you’re up for a new experience, you could have a good time.
You can also go to social media. Sites like Facebook and Twitter can be useful to find out if there are any great free or cheap local events going on. Yelp has a section where users can submit upcoming events in different cities. Meetup is another social media site to check for events. I’m part of a Theatre-Goers Meetup group in my city. Double check to see if a similar group exists where you live (and if it doesn’t you can always create your own).
Get a Subscription
If you know that you will be able to use it a subscription for tickets to one particular venue or theater organization could be worth the initial cost. Generally subscriptions work out to a lower price per ticket than buying tickets for each show separately. If you are doing a lot of traveling buying, a subscription might not work, but it is something to consider.
Go to a Festival
I mentioned The Edmonton International Fringe Festival in my volunteer post. If I hadn’t volunteered the individual tickets for the performances I saw were no more than $15 each (and some were only $6 each). Other music and theater festivals might have reasonably priced tickets. Check to see what the general admission cost is for going to the festival. You may also want to check if it would be worth it to buy a festival pass.
Go to the Bar
While this tip won’t for those of you who are underage, often bars and pubs will have live music, and the admission may be as much as a regular night’s cover. It is true that the cover might be more, or that there may be a drink minimum. Either way catching a live performance at a bar can be an affordable way to hear live music. Of course, it could be a pretty expensive night if you don’t watch your bar tab too.
Ask for Gifts
Last Christmas I got a gift card for Ticket Master from my parents, which can be used for any tickets sold through Ticket Master. This was a cool gift, and something I would have never thought of to ask for. If you love shows or concerts consider asking for a tickets or a gift card for your birthday, or another special gift giving occasion.
I hope this final instalment of The Cheap Theater Series has helped you find ways to see theater and other life performances at a low cost.
The shows in the post may have closed, and the prices may be different for shows depending on the city/venue/production.
If you’re taking a trip to see a show are need a hotel you can find one here.
What are your tips for seeing live entertainment for cheap or free?