Volunteer to See Free Shows | Cheap Theater Series

I love the theater, but I don’t love the idea that going to the theater has to cost a lot of money. This post is the first in mt Cheap Theater Series. Here I give you creative ideas on how to see theater, and other live performances at a low cost. This first post is about how to volunteer to see free shows.

In August 2013 I saw 15 different live shows. All together these tickets this would cost several hundred dollars. I only paid $2.50 all together. How did I manage to see so many shows for such a low price? I was a volunteer.

Theater in Edmonton

I’m from Edmonton, Canada. It’s city that is often overlooked. That’s too bad because there’s more to Edmonton than meets the eye. Like the fact the local theater scene here is pretty fantastic. The biggest theater event in the city is The Edmonton International Fringe Festival. It occurs every August, and it’s the second largest Fringe Festival in the world.

Being a Volunteer at The Edmonton International Fringe

Every year I can I go to the Fringe and I’ll see a few shows. I had wanted to volunteer at The Fringe for a long time, and I got to do that last year. During The Fringe, I worked at the box office selling tickets. The Fringe has their volunteer program organized quite well. Shifts were between 4 and 6 hours long. Volunteers were only required to work three or four shifts during the 10-day festival. The Fringe provided volunteers with food, and nonalcoholic drinks during their shifts. There was always someone around to help new volunteers and answer questions.

Outdoor show at the 2013 Edmonton Fringe Festival.

Outdoor show at the 2013 Edmonton International Fringe Festival.

Free Shows at The Fringe

There are many benefits to volunteering. I got to spend time at a festival I love, and I met new people. Still I’ll admit a big benefit to volunteering for The Fringe were getting Fringe bucks. These are vouchers volunteers get after finishing their shift for the day. You could use your Fringe bucks to enter raffles with prizes donated by local merchants. Or you could use them to buy tickets for shows at The Fringe. After The Fringe ends several of the most popular shows are held over for a few performances. Fringe bucks were also valid for those shows. As well some shows at would set aside a set number of complimentary tickets for volunteers. These complimentary tickets didn’t need Fringe bucks.

The Cost of Volunteering

If you haven’t already guessed, I was all about using my Fringe bucks to see free shows. I worked seven shifts at The Frinfe, giving me $140 in Fringe bucks. This includes the Fringe bucks I got for attending a mandatory training session. I saw 15 different shows using my Fringe bucks and comp tickets. I only paid $2.50 for one show, as I didn’t have enough Fringe bucks to cover the full price of the ticket.

2013 Edmonton International Fringe Festival posters.

Posters for some shows at the 2013 Edmonton International Fringe Festival

Regular Fringe Tickets

Regular tickets for shows at The Edmonton International Fringe Festival are reasonable. Most range between $6 and $15. Aside from a $2.50/ticket fee (to cover the cost of putting on the festival) the rest of the ticket proceeds go to the artists. I love supporting the performing arts. Without volunteering I likely would have seen a few shows, but not as many as I had volunteering.

Volunteering at the Fringe helped see some shows at a low-cost. I got to meet new people, and I got a tangible experience helping out with a festival that I love. The 30-minute drive to go to the festival venue was worth it for me. Volunteering for The Fringe was a great experience. I encourage everyone to look into volunteering at a festival like The Fringe.
The Princess Theatre in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

The Princess Theater in Edmonton is an Art Deco movie theater. They always host a few shows during The Fringe. I saw Scratch – a fantastic improv show that always sells out when it’s at The Fringe at The Princess.


If you’re traveling to see a show or go to an event like The Fringe volunteering may or may not work for you. Make sure to get in contact with someone to see volunteer positions are available. Here are some things you’ll want find out before signing up to volunteer for any show or event.

  • What kind of work will you be doing?
  • How much time per day/week will you have to commit to volunteering? You need to decide if the amount of time you’ll be spending as a volunteer will be worth it. Particularly if you only have limited time in a destination.
  • What conditions will you be volunteering in? Will you be inside or outside?
  • Will you be working with other people? Will there be someone on site to help you out?
  • What are the breaks like? How many breaks do you get per shift? How long is each break?
  • Are food and drinks provided? Do you have to bring your own food and drinks?
  • Is there anything else you need to bring during your shifts? For example volunteers at The Fringe needed to have their volunteer pass on them at all times. This also included when buying tickets with Fringe bucks.
  • What are the perks for volunteering? If want to see a free show for volunteering then you should make sure that this is possible before you sign up.

Final Thoughts

With a little bit of planning you could see performances for free or at a low cost by volunteering. One last note: Everything has a cost whether that cost is terms of money or time. With volunteering you spend your time helping others and supporting an organization. You need to be sure that this is a cause and commitment you are willing to make. Yes, seeing those free shows at The Fringe was great, but I wanted to volunteer for The Fringe. I would have done so regardless of the perks.

Things You Should Know

Contact the organisation in advance to make sure volunteer positions are available. A good idea is to check a couple of months before (better too early than too late).
If you are looking for a hotel at your volunteer destination consider booking one here.

Have you volunteered to see a free show?

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6 Responses to Volunteer to See Free Shows | Cheap Theater Series

  1. Mary @ Green Global Travel February 17, 2014 at 7:15 PM #

    Volunteering really is a great way to see free shows! Thanks for sharing!

    • Alouise February 18, 2014 at 7:59 PM #

      Hi Mary. Thanks for the comment. I always enjoy volunteering and the free shows were a nice bonus.

  2. Abby March 6, 2014 at 10:44 AM #

    Great idea! I’ve always found that there are ways to be involved with the arts without paying high ticket prices… Way to go. Sounds so fun!

    • Alouise March 7, 2014 at 8:38 PM #

      Thanks for the comment Abby. I always love sharing how to get a good deal for seeing a show.

  3. Mary Calculated Traveller June 10, 2014 at 11:52 PM #

    I love the theatre as well, but have a hard time getting friends, family to shell out the big bucks to see anything with me. I think your budget friendly way of seeing shows is a great idea! Thanks for the tip!

    • Alouise June 13, 2014 at 1:52 PM #

      Thanks Mary. Hope you can use some of these tips to help your friends and family see some shows with you.

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