New York City Theater and More NYC on the Cheap

When I moved to NYC many years ago, I knew I had to learn how to obtain cheap theatre tickets on my entry-level television executive salary. Being from Atlanta, Georgia, I had long been deprived of really good theater and was determined to see every play I could make my way into. I had learned to love the city during my many visits during high school. My culture-loving sister was living here at the time.

And see as much as I could, boy, did I ever. I have seen nearly everything to hit Broadway and off-Broadway over the years and have rarely paid more than $30. Most of the time, I have paid no more than $3 (tickets have gone up since then). I would like to share my tricks of the trade with you and hope you are fresh off the plane just like I was once upon a time.

Audience Extras: My favorite of the bunch. For $85 a year for your membership fee, you put another $30 in a “reserve fund” which goes towards your tickets. Basically, when a theatre hasn’t sold enough seats to fill the house and needs some seat fillers, they contact AE. They, in turn, put the complimentary seats on a phone hot line or online booking service for that same night for only $3.50 a ticket. You do need to be spontaneous, which I was able to be in my single, pre-children days. I saw the premiere of “Rent” when it was off-Broadway, numerous Broadway offerings and concerts all over the city at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and even the Meadow lands.  http://www.audienceextras.com/

Play by Play: Provides the same service as Audience Extras, but with a slightly greater number of tickets to Broadway shows. Yearly membership is $99 with an additional $3 per ticket service charge. Participating events are listed online and members can reserve up to two tickets per event. I have a friend who uses this service and loves it. /http://www.play-by-play.com/

Theatre Development Fund (TDF): Also offers cheap theatre, dance and concert tickets to those who qualify. The membership cost is $35 a year and tickets range from $20-$37. To qualify for TDF membership, you must belong to one of the following groups: full-time students, full-time teachers, union members, retirees, civil service employees, staff members of not-for-profit organizations, performing arts professionals, members of the armed forces or clergy. TDF does ask for proof of eligibility. Shows have included Fela, God of Carnage, In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play), London Philharmonic at Lincoln Center, Next to Normal, Rock of Ages, and Wishful Drinking. http://www.tdf.org/TDF_HomePage.aspx

TDF also hosts TKTS – half-price ticket offerings open to the public in various locations around New York City seven days a week. TDF operates three TKTS Discount Booths in New York City in Times Square, the South Street Seaport and downtown Brooklyn. All locations sell tickets at 50%, 40%, 30% and 20% off full-price (plus a $4.00 per ticket service charge, which helps support other TDF services and programs). Availability and ticket inventory change throughout the day and at the discretion of individual productions.

Join now – they are having a sale!

TheaterMania: Sign up for a free membership with this online club and save up to 50 percent on occasional tickets to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows. Discounts are available for a small selection of Off-Off Broadway shows as well. The site’s free newsletter, TMInsider, offers the latest information on shows, discounts and ticket sales. http://www.theatermania.com/

The Playbill Club : Playbill offers its online members discounts of up to 50 percent on Broadway and Off-Broadway shows. Subscribers also get restaurant discounts and an occasional hotel or opera deal. Membership is free, and you may request mailings about new discounts and exclusive theater-related merchandise. http://www.playbill.com/club/offers/

Theatre Memberships: Lincoln Center Theater, the Public Theater, the MCC, the Atlantic, the New Victory to name a few. When you are a member, you have access to pre-sale, discounted tickets to every production in a season. I am a big fan of Lincoln Center’s productions. I’ve been a member for many years and have seen everything they’ve produced. It costs $45 a year and I get tickets for $25-$40. The Public Theater has a great preview pack for $225 for 5 tickets to any of its productions over the course of a season. The catch is that you must see the plays in the first two weeks of previews. The Atlantic has a great membership plan. For $50 you get first dibs to all tickets at only $25 each all season long.

Students can sometimes purchase up to two $20 tickets for the following Lincoln Center programs: Great Performers, Mostly Mozart, American Songbook and certain Lincoln Center Festival events.

Lincoln Center Theater: http://www.lct.org
The Public Theater: http://www.publictheater.org
The MCC Theater: http://www.mcctheater.org
The Atlantic Theater: http://www.atlantictheater.org
The New Victory Theater: http://www.newvictory.org

Here is a snap shot of other types of cheap tickets available:

Carnegie Hall: A limited number of $10 partial-view tickets are available for performances in Carnegie Hall’s Isaac Stern Auditorium (excluding Carnegie Hall Family Concerts and galas). Same-day tickets go on sale at the box office beginning at noon, with a limit of two per person. Student/senior rush tickets, also priced at $10, are sold starting at noon on the performance day, until 1 hour before show time. http://www.carnegiehall.org

BAM Student/Senior Rush Tickets: The Brooklyn Academy of Music offers $10 tickets to students (full- and part-time under 25 years old) and seniors with valid ID. Tickets for unsold seats may be purchased at the box office 90 minutes prior to showtime. There is a two ticket per person limit. http://www.bam.org/

New York Philharmonic: Students, senior citizens (62 and over), and disabled persons are eligible to purchase $10 tickets on the day of select performances. Two tickets per person; sold at the Avery Fisher Hall Box Office. http://nyphil.org

The Joyce Theater: The Joyce Theater hosts performances by a variety of dance companies such as Tap City, Ballet NY, and Hubbard St. Dance. Full-time college students and seniors with current ID can purchase $15 rush tickets at the box office one hour before showtime. http://www.joyce.org

New York City Ballet: Full-time students under 30 with val
id ID are eligible for $12 Student Rush Tickets to select same-day performances. One ticket per person; purchase tickets online or at the New York State Theater box office. http://www.nycballet.com/nycb/home

Metropolitan Opera: Standing room tickets for the following week’s performances go on sale Saturday mornings at 10am. To vie with in-the-know stand;ing room regulars, line up outside the Metropolitan Opera Box Office at least an hour in advance. Orchestra standing room tickets sell for $20 and Family Circle for $15, with a limit of one ticket per person for each performance. Extra tickets are sold at the box office until show time.  http://www.metoperafamily.org/metopera/

Students (29 and under) may purchase discounted tickets to select Metropolitan Opera performances. Weekday shows are priced at $25 while Friday and Saturday shows go for $35.

Shakespeare in Central Park: Each summer The Public Theater presents a free production of a Shakespeare play at the outdoor Delacorte Theater, attracting big-name actors and a diverse crowd. Tickets are handed out daily at 1pm at The Delacorte in Central Park, from 1pm to 3pm at the Public Theater, and from 1pm to 3pm on select dates at locations in all five boroughs (call for details). Bring a blanket, book, and friend as lines begin forming early in the morning. Despite the long wait, the atmosphere tends to be lively and the people-watching fabulous. This has been a high-light of living in New York City.  http://www.publictheater.org

High Five Tickets to the Arts: Kids between 13 and 18 years old (or anyone in middle or high school) can buy tickets to participating arts events for $5 per ticket for weekends or $5 for two tickets for Monday through Thursday events. For museum events, pay $5 for two tickets any day of the week. http://www.highfivetix.org/splash.aspx

Student Rush Tickets
Many Broadway and Off-Broadway theaters reserve their front orchestra rows for student rush tickets. Tickets for same-day performances must be purchased at the theater box office and generally go on sale at 10am, with lines often forming in the wee hours. Typical prices are $20 or $30 per ticket.

NY Theatre Experience: Offers online coupons for a very limited number of off-Broadway shows. Bring a printout of the virtual coupon to the box office or mention the coupon code when calling Tele-charge. Savings range from a mere $2 off the ticket price to a 50 percent discount. No membership necessary. http://www.nytheatre.com/

Other options if time is not an issue and you don’t mind standing on your feet, either outside the theatre or during the play.

Standing Room Only: Many Broadway theaters sell tickets for standing room, located directly behind the orchestra seating. The catch: tickets are only available on the day of the performance and the show must be completely sold out. Tickets usually cost between $15 and $30. Check with specific box offices for details.

Volunteer Ushering: A handful of Broadway theaters and most Off-Broadway theaters rely on volunteer ushers to work during performances and it’s easy to lend a hand in exchange for a chance to see the show. Make a reservation in advance and then arrive about an hour and a half before the performance for a debriefing from the house manager. After you show paying theatergoers to their seats, settle down to enjoy the performance for free. You might be asked to stick around for a bit afterwards to scan for stray playbills or lost-and-found items. Call the box office as procedures (and dress codes) vary.

There also many, many deals to seeing good kid’s theater – that will be for another blog!  I took my daughter to see “Mary Poppins,” “The Little Mermaid” and other musicals by purchasing the cheapest seats on the balcony.  You do what you have to do to get there!

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  1. Thanks for all the great ideas – can’t wait to try them out this summer.

  2. You are really such an amazing resource. Thanks for this post. most helpful.

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