7 Ways to Get Your Theatre Fix Without Going Totally Broke

Discount theatre
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Hamilton isn’t just the guy on the $10 bill; he’s also the subject of a wildly popular theater production you may have heard about.

Unfortunately, scrappy theatergoers hungry to see the show (see what I did there?) have to shell out big bucks, even for the nosebleed seats.

While you’re waiting for your shot to see “Hamilton,” don’t forget about the local and regional playhouses in your area. They’re loaded with talented actors, and you’ll find everything from contemporary shows written by up-and-coming playwrights to good old-fashioned Shakespeare.

7 Budget-Friendly Ways to See Live Theater

But Broadway or not, full-price tickets for a night at any theater can be expensive. Fortunately, there are a few ways to score lower-cost seats for less scratch than you’d spend on a Broadway show.

1. Look for Last-Minute Tickets  

If you’re willing to be flexible on the date or time you attend a performance, look into getting your name on a waiting list so you’ll be called if tickets become available at the last minute.

Actors don’t like to play to an empty house, so you might even score your tickets for free in exchange for being spontaneous.

2. Volunteer Your Time  

Many playhouses offer show tickets to people who are willing to donate their time to help with set building, concession management and other offstage jobs that help keep the production running.

Some tasks, like ushering, may even allow you to see the show more than once. Just make sure you’re up for hearing the same scenes and songs a whole  bunch of times before agreeing to volunteer.

3. Try an App

If you live in a major metropolitan area, try TodayTix. It’s a lot like Priceline, but for theater tickets. You could save as much as 50% off tickets to last-minute performances.

Don’t forget to set an alert to be notified when tickets become available to shows on your wish list.

Right now, TodayTix only includes theaters in big cities like Los Angeles, New York and Boston. The site says it will add more cities “in the coming months.”

4. Ask About Preview Nights

If you’re willing to overlook a few performance hiccups, ask the box office if they offer reduced-price preview tickets.

Preview nights give the actors a chance to rehearse the show in front of a live audience to work out any last-minute kinks before a general opening.

In most cases, you won’t even notice any onstage blips, but no heckling if you do. Acting is tough!

5. Consider Season Tickets

If you’re interested in seeing a series of shows at your local playhouse, look into season tickets. Though you’ll shell out more money upfront, the overall cost of each ticket will be lower.

As a nice bonus, many theater groups offer incentives, like discount coupons to nearby restaurants, to encourage people to commit to a whole season.

6. Be Social

Make sure to follow your local theater on social media and join their mailing list if they have one. If it looks like there won’t be a full house, producers sometimes offer up tickets on social channels on a first-come, first-served basis.

(Hint: turn on notifications for the playhouse’s social accounts so you’re the first to know about offers.)

7. Grab a Tweet Seat  

Want to be the only fancy pants in the house who doesn’t have to put their phone away during the performance? Then find out if your local theater offers Tweet Seats, an opportunity to live-tweet the show in exchange for a free seat.

Don’t worry about bothering the actors or fellow patrons as you tap-tap-tap on your smartphone. Tweet Seats are strategically placed in a part of the theater that won’t distract the performers or audience.

Are You Already Eligible for Discount Theater Tickets?

Like movie theaters and amusement parks, many local and regional theaters offer reduced-price tickets to people who fall into these three categories:

1. Students  

Step away from the textbook. When you’re ready for an extended study break, lots of local and regional theater companies offer reduced-price tickets to anyone with a student ID.

In some cases, you can order tickets online, but you’ll typically need to show up at the box office with your picture ID to purchase them in person.

2. Military Members

Count theater troupes among the organizations honored to give something back to the women and men who serve their country.

Military discounts can range from a few dollars off to deep price cuts, so call the box office and check to see if you qualify before plunking down money for a full-price ticket.

3. Senior Citizens

Getting older has more benefits than reduced-price pancakes. Seniors can score cheap tickets at many theater productions just by asking.

As with a student or military discount, be prepared to show some ID to verify your birth year.

Your Turn: What’s your favorite tip for finding inexpensive theater tickets? What’s the last play you saw?

Lisa McGreevy is a Staff Writer with The Penny Hoarder. She may or may not have listened to Hamilton on repeat while writing this.