How to be a Proper Theatregoer… on a student budget
See some of the most incredible productions around the world without breaking the bank
From living in Manhattan and London, they’re home to some of the greatest performances in the world, and well-known as such. However, as a college student, many of us don’t have the extensive budget to see such incredible productions. I’m here to let you in on a few secrets to seeing some of the most magnificent global theatre without breaking the bank.
New York City
1. TodayTix app
During my summer living in Manhattan, I first discovered the handy smartphone app as means to help find cheaper alternatives to seeing some of the greatest shows on and off Broadway, plays and musicals alike. The app compiles ticket information for up to two days in advance, and you can choose your preferred seating section (each has an approximate value predetermined). Now, as a college student, my funds were limited, so I opted for the cheapest options (nothing was more than $30.) All of the seats I saw through the app provided me with a seat overlooking the entire stage, just towards the top in the upper balcony.
With better price options than online apps or the TKTS booth, rush [student rush] lines sell unsold tickets at a lower price on the morning of the show. These are most likely cash-only. Most box offices open around 10 a.m., so I’d advise arriving to the theatre around 7 a.m. because the lines can get long! Over Fourth of July weekend, I went to rush “Finding Neverland” for $35, and I arrived at 7 a.m. and was first in line, that ended up wrapping around the street corner by 8:30, and there weren’t enough tickets to accommodate everyone waiting. Luckily, I, and about fifteen others were able to purchase the $35 seats; mine in the front row, which is classified as “restricted view,” but you can still see everything. Don’t let “restricted” or “partial view deter you; you can still see mostly everything, a few moments or sets in their back of the stage might be difficult, but mostly everything is visible.
Many shows do not offer rush tickets, but rather a lottery drawing for a predetermined amount of seats. Currently, the most famous one is the Hamilton #Ham4Ham lottery (where even if you don’t win, you’ll still walk away with a memory of an exclusive cast performance). Basically, crowds come out for the slightest chance to purchase one to two cheaper tickets to that matinee’s or evening’s show. Don’t be discouraged: it is possible to win: I won the Aladdin one, one friend won at Matilda and a work colleague won the $10 Hamilton lottery. These are most likely cash-only. Also, some shows like Matilda and Kinky Boots, offer digital lotteries, through their one website or TodayTix.
4. Standing Room
Often purchased in similar ways to either rush or lottery, some theaters offer what they call SRO (Standing Room Only) tickets, but these are only available when all other seats sold out or instead of rush or lottery. Examples include “Fun Home,” (rush) “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” (before its closing) and “Hamilton” (lottery). I know it doesn’t seem ideal to be standing for two hours in the back of the theater, but patrons do not seem to mind– think of it as what could be your only means to see the show? It becomes worth it. These are most likely cash-only.
5. TKTS Booth
Perhaps the most famous option for discount tickets is the red TKTS booth. With good seats at half-price the day-of, you can find good deals here, however, I’d head to the booth at the South Street Seaport— it’s way less crowded (and known) than the Times Square line that moves very slowly.
6. Student Discounts
Several theaters or theater companies have student priced tickets or programs such as HipTix or LincTix, where they offer special deals for students to see shows. Other theaters might offer student pricing for specific shows.
Still confused about each specific show offers in regards to ticket deals? Check out broadwayforbrokepeople.com for a comprehensive list of all the current shows and how to get the best deals. New York City has some of the greatest theater in the world, trust me, you don’t want to miss out.
In addition to TodayTix and TKTS in London, there’s also:
1. Day-of seats. Day-of seats are the British equivalent of rush seats. Basically, all you need to do is arrive at outside the theatre (around 8 a.m. often works best for optimal positions.) The theatre holds a select number of open seats (in somewhat restricted views or unsold seats), and the morning of the show (evening or matinee performance), they’ll allow a small amount of people to purchase one-to-two tickets for a more-discounted rate, using either a credit card or cash to pay. For example, I saw the recent London revival of Miss Saigon for 20 pounds in the front row and Matilda has five-pound student rush tickets, both of which were great views of the entire stage to incredible productions.
2. London has several, free opportunities to see several radio, television and film exclusive events. BBC and ITV factual (reality, competition) shows on TV and radio offer digital lotteries for free tickets. The BBC offers seating available for every radio program and most live TV events. I have friends that took the BBC tour one day, and were then pulled to serve as the live studio audience for The One Show. There’s also applausestore.com which offers a lottery of tickets for a variety of shows, however, those odds are less since many more people enter.
Theatre provides such a unique cultural perspective that enhances trips as a tourist or the local perspective, that even as a student, you should definitely partake in during your travels.