One of the best ways that I know how to take myself out of lab life is to see live theatre, and I’m lucky that New York City offers an overwhelming number of options to do this affordably (though Hamilton ticket prices may have you fooled about this).
One of the aspects I love most about going to the theatre is the acute feeling that I am part of a connected community. As an audience member at a live theatre performance, you’re part of the experience in a way that is different than watching a movie or reading a book (pastimes I also enjoy and support!) because your attention and energy mix with those around you. This atmosphere affects the performers and the audience’s experience, for better or worse. One of my more memorable theatre-going experiences was seeing the final performance of The Color Purple revival in 2017. The Clintons arrived. The house shook with applause that never quite died down as each song about the female protagonist, rising above the oppression of the men in her life, unfolded on stage. Not every theatre experience is as emotionally charged as that one, but they all offer a chance to see life from a different perspective and with a unique group of people. In future posts, I hope to highlight shows I’ve watched on and off Broadway, but this time I want to give you tips for seeing theatre on a budget.
If you are a full time student, teacher, or faculty member (or other qualifying category), the Theatre Development Fund is your friend — https://www.tdf.org/nyc/24/Eligibility-Requirements. For just $35 a year, you will have access to dozens of theatre experiences in the city, many of them on Broadway. You can purchase tickets in advance for multiple people, and prices range from $9-49, with only a $4 processing fee. Hamilton and Wicked won’t show up through this service, but popular shows like Carousel and Hello Dolly have. You don’t find out where your seats are until you arrive at the theatre, but I’ve often lucked out with orchestra seats! Seeing Broadway on a budget is rarely going to get better than this.
Lotteries also offer a way to see a Broadway show inexpensively, but of course, you shouldn’t rely on winning to have plans to see theatre that night. Some shows like Mean Girls, Book of Mormon, and Once On This Island offer in person lotteries every day that are usually drawn two hours before the performance. In the last couple of years, many shows have begun to offer digital lottery options. Broadway Direct (https://lottery.broadwaydirect.com/) offers digital lotteries for Lion King, Aladdin, Spongebob, and Summer. The TodayTix app (https://www.todaytix.com/) currently offers the digital lottery for the Harry Potter play on Broadway. Also, shows such as Hamilton (https://hamiltonmusical.com/lottery/), Dear Evan Hansen (https://dearevanhansenlottery.com/), and Book of Mormon (https://www.luckyseat.com/book-of-mormon/) offer their own digital lotteries on dedicated websites.
If you have patience, rush tickets are also a wonderful budget-friendly option. Some shows restrict their rush policies by age or student status, but many are open for the general public. Rush tickets are sold when the box office opens (typically 10am Tuesday-Saturday and noon on Sundays), but you’ll want to get in line at least a couple hours before to better your odds. Each show has discretion for how many rush tickets they will sell on a given day, but you can usually count on around twenty tickets sold at the rush price. If you’re one of the first ten people on line, your chances are pretty good. Some shows have also started offering a digital rush in the TodayTix app as well, including shows at The Public Theater (https://www.publictheater.org/).
Speaking of which, don’t overlook seeing shows Off-Broadway! The houses are smaller so the shows are more intimate and the tickets are often more affordable. Student discounts or age-related discounts are also usually available if you ask the box office. I’d recommend checking out The Public (https://www.publictheater.org/), 2nd Stage (https://2st.com/), New World Stages (https://newworldstages.com/), Classic Stage Company (https://www.classicstage.org/), and the Atlantic Theatre Company (https://atlantictheater.org/) for starters.
There are also four TKTS booths around the city (https://www.tdf.org/nyc/7/TKTS-ticket-booths) that offer same day Broadway and Off-Broadway tickets at a discount. The seats are usually in the orchestra section, so you might still be paying more than $50 for a ticket, but your view will be great and it’s still cheaper than buying from the box office. The TodayTix app sometimes offers tickets for a discount compared to the box office, but not all the time so be sure to double-check!
This isn’t an exhaustive list of budget-friendly ways to see theatre in the city, but it should be plenty to get you started! Always get in touch with the show’s box office for the most accurate information on rush or lottery policies. And here’s a website that keeps up with the rush and lottery options for Broadway shows (http://www.broadwayforbrokepeople.com/).
Remember to be kind to the audience members around you by turning off your phones, unwrapping your candies, and keeping fidgeting and talking to a minimum during the performance. And of course, enjoy the show!