There is a myth that theatre is an art form relegated to the wealthy. Good news, theatre-lovers: Playbill.com is here to bust that myth. There are multiple ways to purchase seats for all types of theatre in New York City without going bust, and—contrary to popular belief—there are options for buyers of all ages, with in-advance and last-minute deals.
FOR IN-ADVANCE TICKETS:
If you’re looking for an affordable seat, but want to plan your theatre outing far in advance, discounts are the way to go. Sites like Playbill offer discounts for Broadway and Off-Broadway shows. On Playbill, tickets are discounted by a minimum of 15 percent (up to 50 percent off), and anyone can access the full listing of these discounts by visiting Playbill.com/Club. If you want to be alerted to new and select discounts as they become available, be sure to sign up for the Playbill Club newsletter—it’s free!
2. Theatre Development Fund (TDF) Membership
According to TDF director of marketing and public relations David LeShay, TDF membership is “the best kept secret” of affordable ticket-buying. From full-time students to full-time teachers, from freelancers to retirees and more, the likelihood is that you (or your theatre buddy) is eligible for TDF membership. For a nominal annual fee of $34, TDF members get access to discounted tickets to Broadway, Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway shows and special events. In fact, for events typically charging food and beverage minimums, TDF offers a discounted ticket price and often waives the minimum.
“We try to think of groups who would not be able to afford to go [to the theatre], who aren’t going and we get them to go,” says LeShay. TDF typically lists approximately 250 available shows on their site with dates a week or two in advance. Members can purchase up to nine tickets per performance at nearly unbeatable prices. Broadway seats are a mere $47 and Off Off-Broadway is $9. The only catch: Patrons do not get to choose exact seats. “The way it works, for instance, on Broadway: The show will say sell [a number] of tickets for every performance this week, then we send them the manifest of names, and the day of the show they fill the orders with the best available [seats],” explains LeShay. That could mean orchestra seats for less than $50!
3. LincTix, Hiptix and 30 Under 30 and more
Broadway houses hosting shows produced by non-profit theatre companies Lincoln Center Theater, Roundabout Theater Company and Manhattan Theatre Club offer in-advance discount tickets to young patrons. Sign up for these initiatives is free, but you must meet the age requirements. (Yes, they check your ID when you pick up your tickets.)
Lincoln Center Theater’s LincTix serves theatregoers between the ages of 21–35 and offers members one ticket for $32 at the Beaumont and Newhouse Theatres or two $30 tickets for LCT3 shows. Don’t worry; you can link orders with a fellow LincTix member so that you don’t have to fly solo at LCT’s Broadway houses. For Roundabout Theater Company shows, patrons age 18–35 can join Hiptix for $20–$25 tickets to all Roundabout shows. Hiptix members can typically purchase two seats per order and will receive invites to Hiptix member parties. (For an extra $75 donation, you’ll be a Hiptix Gold member with access to these ticket prices for orchestra section seats.) Manhattan Theatre Club caters to the 30-and-under set, although the age restriction only applies to the purchaser. Members can buy up to two tickets per performance for $30 each and will receive invites to post-show soirees.
Off-Broadway offerings include Second Stage 30 Under 30, the MCC Twentysomething Program, Young Memberships at Playwrights Horizons, Theatre for a New Audience New Deal tickets, the Public Theater’s First Performances, the Signature Theatre’s A Generation of Access and more, which have discounts available to younger ticketbuyers, as well. Visit the individual theatre websites for full details.
FOR DAY-OF SEATS:
1. Rush, Lottery and Standing Room Only
For theatregoers who want to choose spur of the moment, these strategies are for you. “Rush” is the general term for day-of, first-come-first-serve seats sold at the theatre box office. The shows generally release these tickets as soon as the box office opens. “General rush” means anyone of any age can purchase tickets, whereas “student rush” requires a valid student ID. Take note: This strategy may require that you roll out of bed early to stand in line before the box office opens, depending on the popularity of the show. Down side: Early rising and then waiting outside the theatre. Up side: If you get yourself a front spot in the line, you can nearly guarantee yourself a ticket.
Lotteries are for gamblers. Down side: There is absolutely no way to better your chances of winning. Up side: You have the same chance of winning as anyone else, and you don’t have to wake up early in the morning. Shows that run lotteries have a set number of seats they raffle off each day for a fixed price. Many shows now conduct their lotteries online for convenience.
While rush and lottery give winners seats in the theatre, if your only concern is being inside those four walls, take a look at standing room only. Typically located at the back of the orchestra section, these spots are for showgoers who can stand for the length of a performance. It’s a great way to see a show that might otherwise be sold out, not to mention tickets are much cheaper than an orchestra seat.
2. TKTS Booth
TDF is more than just membership. The organization is the driving force behind the TKTS Booth—with their most famous location in the heart of Times Square and two satellite locations at the Southstreet Seaport and in Brooklyn. While run by TDF, the Booth (as it’s known) is a completely separate program from TDF membership.
Unlike TDF membership, “TKTS operates where the shows decide on the day of [performance] what tickets they have available to us,” says LeShay. Hours vary at each location, but the Times Square location sells day-of tickets for matinee and evening performances. The Lincoln Center, Seaport and Brooklyn locations actually sell matinee tickets the day before and then day-of tickets for evening shows (so visit Tuesday for Tuesday evening and/or Wednesday afternoon shows). And Lincoln Center’s location also includes tickets to all of the offerings on the performing arts campus. At all locations, ticket buyers can see the exact seat locations.
The best way to navigate TKTS: Download the free app. The app shows a complete list of show offerings, the percentage discount, even the estimated wait time in line. “People seem to think the lines are always really long, but basically the line is long the first hour/hour-and-a-half we open,” says LeShay. “By 5 o’clock you can pretty much walk up to the windows.”
For play-lovers, the Play Express line helps avoid any wait. Tickets to plays are sold at all windows, but if you’re not considering a musical, hop on the exclusive queue. TKTS also has a 7-day Fast Pass window. “If you’ve been to the booth and bought tickets there, you can come back with those ticket stubs within seven days and go right to the front of the special Fast Pass line,” says LeShay.
Theatregoers looking for a specific show can also set alerts in the app tied to specific titles. “Let’s say they don’t have Beautiful [on the board] and you want Beautiful. You can set up to be notified when we have Beautiful on sale and as soon as that happens, you get a message pop up,” says LeShay. The same resources are also available online at tdf.org/TKTSlive. When you buy a ticket at TKTS, you’re not just supporting the theatre. “Our service charge is only $5.00, and the net of that goes to all of our education and access programs,” says LeShay. “If you buy, you’re also helping.”