Exploring the World of Theatre on a Budget

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First it was In the Heights, then it was FELA!. It was Billy Elliot in London, then back to New York for Memphis and Porgy and Bess. Although my first experience of Broadway with CATS didn’t catch me in its grasp, my second experience, which was In the Heights (at the recommendation of Oprah), set me on my path to becoming a theatre fiend. A few of my theatre experiences have even been birthday gifts from my parents. That is how much I have come to enjoy it.

If you’ve ever seen a play in New York or even dreamed of seeing a play, you know that they can get pretty pricey – especially if you want to be closer than close, which I always want to be. Luckily for us theatre lovers, there is a not-so well-kept secret to seeing great plays both on- and off-Broadway at a great price. The secret: TKTS.

TKTS is a program hosted by the Theatre Development Fund, “a not-for-profit organization created with the conviction that the live theatrical arts afford a unique expression of the human condition that must be sustained and nurtured.” Through this program, theatregoers can purchase select tickets for up to 50% off the retail price.

I have become pretty well versed in TKTS. We have spent a number of early mornings, sometimes cold and sick, rushing to get into the lines. You have probably seen them, but not realized what they were. The main TKTS booth sits smack dab in the middle of Times Square (there are additional locations in Brooklyn and lower Manhattan). It has a large clear window where ticket purchases are made. On each side of the venue, there are two lines that are formed. Each side also has a red column that has a digital display showing the tickets that are available and the discount amount. There have been many times that I have pretty much leaped up in joy when I saw the discount that was being given.

The TKTS booths open up at various times, and each one sells tickets at certain times for evening and matinée performances. We have always gone to the Saturday matinée showings, so although the booth doesn’t open until 10:00 am, we are usually getting our place in line by 8:30 am. There is absolutely no shame in our game. The lines get pretty long, but the people in the line know that it is well worth it.

I know what you’re thinking, and no, this is not your shady salesman selling tickets on the corner. This is a reputable company that gets its tickets directly from the production company. The best part is that TKTS seems to have some of the best seating available.

Nose bleed tickets? Not at all. For each of the plays that we purchased our tickets from TKTS, with the exception of two, we sat somewhere in the first five rows at the very front of the auditorium. We saw everything! So, not only were we able to purchase discounted tickets, we also had exceptional seating. You cannot beat that.

This year, I had hoped to add A Raisin in the Sun with Denzel Washington as Walter, to my list of TKTS finds, but alas it was not meant to be. TKTS did not sell these tickets, and at over $200 per ticket it just wasn’t feasible. You can’t win them all.

If you are heading to London, be sure to stop by the TKTS office located in Leicester Square. We were able to get great discounted tickets for Billy Eliot during our visit. Just a heads up, there will be a number of street vendors both in New York and London trying to sell you tickets, just walk on by and get to the closest TKTS booth as quickly as you can.

Happy theatergoing!

Me and my dad ordering our tickets at the TKTS booth, with my mom behind the camera.
Me and my dad ordering our tickets at the TKTS booth, with my mom behind the camera.
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