By Evelyn Ehrlich
Same Day Tickets
Most every New Yorker knows about TKTS, the booth on Broadway that sells discounted tickets to on and off-Broadway plays and musicals. But what you may not know is that you don’t have to stand in the long line of tourists if you are seeking a ticket to a play, rather than a musical. There is usually a separate ticket window for play ticket buyers—look for the “Play Express” sign or ask a TKTS employee.
There are also TKTS booths in Downtown Brooklyn and the South Street Seaport. Not only are lines often shorter, but these booths sell tickets to the next-day’s matinees. TKTS also has an app showing what shows are available. For more information, check tdf.org.
For tickets to shows in advance, the same organization (TDF) also runs the TDF membership, which is open to retirees over age 62. Membership costs $30 per year and ticket discounts are significant. Two minor caveats
- You cannot choose your seats, so you may find yourself in a partial viewing section
- The most popular shows are usually not offered after the preview period
Online discount services
There are a number of websites that offer free membership and the opportunity to buy tickets in advance at a discount. They all work the same: if the show you are looking for is listed, you can print a discount voucher and take it to the box office. You can also order online or by phone, but will have to pay a service charge of around $10 per ticket.
The best-known of these discount sites are:
Subscribe to non-profit theater companies
If you have ever been a subscriber to a major non-profit theater group (Lincoln Center, Manhattan Theater Club, Roundabout, and many others), chances are you receive postcards in the mail announcing new plays and offering a discount. It often pays to join a theater company just to get discounted tickets. For example, I recently joined Atlantic Theater Company because the $70 membership fee offered a $35 ticket to each performance plus one free guest ticket per season. For $105 ($70 membership fee plus $35 member ticket plus one free ticket), I got two tickets to a performance that would normally have cost $75 per ticket or $150.
Many not-for-profit theaters seek volunteer ushers who get to see the show for free. Some also offer senior discounts, last minute tickets and other deals. Check the website for the production you want to see. I recently looked for discounted tickets to a production at New York Theater Workshop and discovered that they offer both senior discounts and selected $20 tickets to Sunday evening performances. You have to buy the tickets at the box office (cash only) but that’s why we live in New York, right?
You can also try to get deeply discounted rush and lottery tickets, if you have some time to wait in line or feel particularly lucky.
General RUSH Tickets – Tickets Usually Around $25-$40
“General Rush is first come first served. This means that you may need to arrive to get in line well before the time that the tickets are actually sold, depending upon the popularity of the show. If possible, we recommend dropping by the box office a day or two before you plan to try for General Rush tickets and asking the box office attendant what time they would recommend you arrive. A greater chance of success in getting the Broadway RUSH tickets can be garnered by coming when it is quieter on midweek days, in the winter, or in bad weather. If two shows have the same posted time, then groups might want to split up as each person is usually allowed to buy 2 tickets (though sometimes there is a 1 ticket limit) if they get the opportunity to buy RUSH tickets.”
Broadway Ticket Lottery – Tickets Usually Around $25-$40
“The times on the schedule are the exact times that the ticket lottery drawings are held. The box office actually begins taking names for the lottery 30 minutes prior to the drawing time listed on the schedule, but technically you don’t need to arrive more than a few minutes before the drawing takes place – just enough time to fill out a piece of paper with your name and the number of tickets you need (you are allowed 1 or 2). A greater chance of success in the ticket lotteries can be garnered by coming when fewer people are there to enter it – lotteries tend to be a bit quieter on midweek days, in the winter, or in bad weather.”