Look: we know you want to see Hamilton. We know that your mom back in Iowa wants to see Hamilton. And we know that, in the best of all matronly worlds, your mom wants to see Hamilton with you. But I’m not here to help you with that. The New York Times is here to help you with that.
I, on the other hand, am here to tell you about some cheap theatre hacks that, while not as edifying as, say, a rap duel about the foundations of American civic policy, might still help you on a more fiscal level. Basically, I’m going to tell you how to lie, cheat, steal, bone, and gamble your way into some decent shows. (I guess I’ll also tell you about company subscriptions and more responsible, less-boning-heavy ways of acquiring discounted Broadway tickets. But we all know which ones you’re going to go for.)
Go early in the run
Once a show has good reviews, it becomes nearly impossible to get a seat. Case in point: Hamilton. But early on in a show’s run, there are always empty seats producers are desperate to fill. That’s where you come in. Use those connections! If you’ve been in New York longer than 6 months, you know somebody who knows somebody. So call up the production company and offer to bring an industry person or casting agent. If you can get a group together, see if they’ll cut a little off the top. Don’t be afraid to ask. Remember, you’re doing the theater company a big solid by giving them industry exposure and word-of-mouth for their run.
When you go to a Broadway show that doesn’t involve either hip-hop or puppet profanity, you might notice that audiences are looking a little dire. By which I mean dying. By which I mean old. The points is, producers are always trying to get younger audiences in the door. Roundabout Theater Company offers $25 for anyone under the age of 35. Playwrights Horizons does $25 under 30. Theater for a New Audience does $20 under 30. The list probably goes on, so if you’re young(ish), make sure to check at each venue what kind of deal your age gets you.
Volunteer / usher
A lot of places will let you see a show for free in exchange for ushering or volunteering at the show! The Bushwick Starr runs a seriously awesome volunteer program that way. Depending on the scale of the production, you might have to contact a venue, or the theatre company itself. So if you know of a show you want to see, poke around and see if you can sweep the floor or guide people to their seats in exchange for sitting in the back row when the curtain goes up. It works!
Befriend a student
This option gets creepier as you get older, but let’s just pass that off and say that we’re operating in a judgment-free zone. It works a couple of ways: you can sneak past security guards at NYU Tisch and befriend the students, because new shows often donate tickets to local theater departments. Alternatively, you could bribe your new friends into buying you student rush tickets (tickets offered at the last minute to students for low, low prices) in exchange for buying them beer. Or, as one local director does, you could use your old roommate’s college ID because you look enough alike and it has never failed. If you’re really desperate, you could even cut out the middle-man and sign up for a course at a local community college, or steal your younger brother’s ID.
Subscribe to theatre companies
Every theatre company of note offers membership subscriptions with sweet discounts, not to mention discounts for your guests, priority booking, invitations to members-only talkbacks, and other cool things. BAM has a great subscription deal for their Next Wave shows, where seeing 4 or more gets you 30% off every ticket. If you don’t have the dough for a full membership, just join the company’s mailing list or follow them on Facebook, Instagram, etc. Oftentimes they send out discount codes to their “fans” just for hanging around that way.
Date an actor
This might seem like a really dicey move. But it’s New York City, guys — i.e. almost certain that you will at some point date someone in the theater. And it doesn’t have to be an actor. Pick your poison: will it be the director who always wears a Mets hat despite how big his head is? The stage manager who can’t decide if she’s a dom or a sub? The playwright whose dark secret is that he’d rather be dating Zosia Mamet? Oh, they’ll get you into shows, all right. Just be prepared for drama. It was their major, after all.
Play the lottery
Let me give you the gist of that totally too-long Hamilton article: sometimes, shows have unsold seats. Lotteries fill those seats. And producers especially like to fill seats with young broke people who humblebrag on all their social networks about how “honored” they are to have won! So yeah, the lottery is a good option, particularly if you join an app like TodayTix and you have a superhuman tolerance for Times Square.
Become a seat filler
Remember how I said that producers like to fill seats? There are actually whole companies that fill seats, too. Play-By-Play is a seat filling (or “papering”, as they say in the biz) service. Whenever they have shows that need bodies, you could be that body (for a small processing fee of like, $5)! It ain’t free, but you can rest smugly knowing that you paid less than the person next to you, who might’ve legitimately sold a kidney for his/her ticket. Join by Dec. 14 and you’ll be entered to win two tickets to Hamilton. Fill out this form and Play-by-Play will get in touch.
Do your research
Unlike those e-mails from Nigerian princes, most banner-ad-filled theatre discount offers are actually legit. Goldstar has a bunch of half-price tickets (and you can get ’em through us!). Playbill offers deals on their website, too. TKTS is a physical booth that offers your basic discounted last-minute show tickets, at 20%-50% below face. (Don’t go to the Times Square location. TKTS South Street Seaport is tucked away and almost shocking in its lack of wait time.) That Times article also mentioned the awesome DIY site BroadwayForBrokePeople, which gives you a breakdown for what each Broadway show offers by way of discounts.
Go balls-out gangster
Sneak in at intermission. Dress up as a crew member. Tell people you’re Carey Mulligan. I’m not advocating you do any of this, I’m merely saying that these options are available to you. But for a slightly more legal, less dick-ish move, how about this: some places like The Annoyance don’t re-ticket between shows. Buy a ticket to one show, buy a $5 Sixpoint, then sit and stay all night. You could literally kill yourself on booze and theater for the price of one Broadway ticket.
Bottom line: go see cheap theatre
Not all theatre is expensive. For every $300 Broadway show ticket, there’s also a $10 downtown theatre ticket. And guess what? Usually the latter is better. Ensemble Studio Theater had a Youngblood show called Year Of The Rooster by Eric Dufault, and it was the most fun I’d had at a play in a long time. Cost a quarter of what Broadway charges. So expand your horizons: check out the New York Deaf Theatre, Under St. Marks, Dixon Place. Go to shows in Brooklyn, in Astoria. Look for black boxes and walk-ups. You’re in the best theater town in the world, goddammit. Go find it.
Get some other tips and tricks about living here, sign up for our weekly email!