The live theater that makes the news is almost always on Broadway, yet it’s priced out of the range of many potential viewers. Cheap regional theater tickets might offer a better, more accessible experience — especially because you an easily see 10 shows at that level for the price of one of ticket in Broadway’s equivalent of the bleachers.
Even though Broadway ticket lotteries do put a handful of low-cost seats within reach of a lucky few — they give a misleading impression of easier accessibility. Watching the Tony Awards or purchasing a soundtrack may be the closest many of us get to experiencing something like Hamilton.
Cheap Regional Theater Tickets
Fortunately, a number of high-quality live art experiences await you much closer, and at much lower ticket prices.
Many of them are presented by people in your community who could really use (and well deserve) your entertainment dollars.
If you have a theater in your community staffed largely by professionals that put on different plays year-round, congratulations: That’s a regional theater.
Some of these venues focus on the classical repertoire while others offer a balance between classics and newer work. All of them offer high-quality theater for a small fraction of Broadway prices.
Get Ready for Sticker Shock
Now get a load of the following prices for some of the most popular Broadway shows — and keep in mind that the following information doesn’t include fees for travel and hotel (in case you don’t live in New York).
You could easily pay almost half a grand to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child; winner of the Best Play Tony, this production is actually staged in two parts.
One ticket admits you to both parts, but it’ll cost you at least $498 — via Broadway.com, which is considered a discount ticketer — if you want to attend an evening or weekend show.
If you can make a Wednesday matinee you might score a ticket in the very last row for $236 on Vividseats.com.
Try looking for shows with fewer Tony nominations this year, like Mean Girls, and the best you can get is at least a month out for $135 per seat in the mezzanine right (bleacher seats, in sports terms) via Stubhub.
If you want to be able to see, then you might pay $249.50 apiece via the same site. If you want to see it sooner than a month from now, then you’ll have to pay over $800 to get it via verified resale (aka scalpers, who are as active on Broadway shows as they are on sporting events).
Cheap Regional Theater Tickets
Shows playing at the same time at regional theaters have much more reasonable prices, and these include plays that originated on Broadway.
For instance, in Minneapolis, the Guthrie Theater offers performances of another classic musical, West Side Story, for as little as $34 — and the most expensive seats top out at $82 each.
Other shows at the Guthrie has even more affordable prices, like $9 tickets for Not Every Mountain (pictured to the left)– although Guthrie’s site it clear that it wasn’t a finished play, but that the work was being developed during its run there.
Another musical that originated on Broadway, Camelot, has extended its run at Washington DC Shakespeare Company during this same time window. Tickets cost anywhere from $59 to $125, depending on the location of the seats.
Community Theater and Beyond
Even better prices await you at several other types of theaters, although the quality level can vary significantly.
For starters, you might pay around $12.50 per ticket at community theaters, which despite being less professional their regional counterparts still feature experienced actors.
Then there’s plays put on by colleges and universities, where you can expect to pay about $5 to $20 per ticket — plus the usual discounts that come with subscriptions.
Assuming you live in or near a college town, have a look and see if the local university has a drama or theater program. You never know which student actor is destined for stardom – you might just be seeing one of the first performances by tomorrow’s Tina Fey.
Even smaller theaters than the ones on college campuses are the ones that host fringe festivals — downright bonanzas for the devotee of smaller, affordable theater.
There are a surprisingly large number of fringe festivals in the country, each one offering between a weekend and two whole weeks of small, personal theater. You might pay $10 for a single show or get a discounted pass to see five or 10 shows for even less apiece.
And if you really want to save money, you can sign up as a volunteer and then gain free admission to all of the shows if you put in a certain number of work hours. Four shifts might get you a pass for the whole shebang.
Yes, theaters at other levels have volunteer opportunities (look for an “opportunities” link on your local theater’s website), but you probably won’t get to see as many shows as you do at a fringe festival.
Fringe theater is always small-scale, usually meaning new work performed in smaller spaces. And by its nature it is meant to be affordable and accessible, as well as in-your-face and intimate.
That’s really what theater is supposed to be, but that has been lost in the spectacle and industry of Broadway. But the size of your pocketbook and your distance from Broadway are not obstacles between you and an unforgettable theater experience.
Indeed, the greatest live art experience you’ve ever had might be right in your town, at a cost you can count on two hands. Keep your eyes, heart, and browser window open.
Have you made it to any live theater recently? What’s your favorite theater in your community? Sound off in the comments below, theatergoers.
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