Free/Low Cost Theater

Growing up in the outer boroughs of NYC, I always thought theater was out of reach with tickets in the hundreds of dollars. I didn’t find out until last year that the whole time I was a teen I could have been a seat filler and seen any show I wanted by walking in after the Intermission. I’m a little bitter about this. Anyway… I’ve seen more plays this past year than I’ve watched TV or movies. And that’s with bootlegging a friend’s Netflix account.

Let’s start with the free and work our way up from there.

Yelp is more than a place to give one star reviews to Mexican restaurants because the waiters dare to speak Spanish.  As much as I rip on Yelp and Stoppleman’s haircut, having Elite status does get you a steady supply of free food and drink. It’s actually worth being that person who won’t let you eat until they take a picture of your dish under different lighting conditions and angles.
Even though I’m blacklisted from ever becoming Elite (long story…), it’s still worth my while to have written 378 reviews since 2011. That’s an average of 4.5 reviews a month. And here I am thinking that I barely write reviews.

Yelp’s open events are what I stick around for. They are free-free. All my other sites have “processing fees”. $5 isn’t much, but it still isn’t free. Most of the seats have been font mezzanine but I’m not gonna complain about a free shows and views like this:

As you can see I’ve see the most and the best shows with Yelp and for that I’m grateful.

The dark-horse of low cost theater tickets. The quality has been all over the place. I recommended it to a friend just when it hit a growth spurt. Really bad timing. Not only did it take forever for him to start getting offers, the majority of these plays were off-off-off Broadway and what I like to call “Church Basement” plays. “Theaters” in office buildings and community centers. If they weren’t hot messes only populated with family members and other unfortunate Show-Score reviewers, then I wouldn’t have complained, but they were twice baked hot messes on metal folding chairs. I learned the hard way to google the theaters. If it’s located in 59E59 it’s guaranteed to be good. Thought recently all the seats Show-Score gets are by the sound booth, in the nosebleeds.
The tickets used to be completely free but once they took off, they had to start charging a $5 processing fee. It’s not bad and helps stop people from thoughtlessly ditching shows. I think they’ve gotten their sea legs back because they’ve started curating for quality again. Or maybe I’m just better at picking the good stuff.

I really like the review format. It used to be limited to 140 characters for and 140 against seeing the show. Recently they started offering a longer format. I’m not a fan. The Twitter style was challenging and forced me to be creative. Here’s how I handled it: My Show-Score Reviews. As you can see, I’m a generous reviewer.
They’ve also expanded into the Today Tix and GoldStar realm of offering reduced and full-priced Broadway tickets. Here’s to hoping they maintain the quality of their “free” offerings.

I’ve mostly used Goldstar for a wide variety of events like baseball and bull riding (Yes, there’s bull riding in NYC) but I’ve had my best luck with the comp off-Broadway show Neal Brennan’s 3 Mics. It’s on Netflix right now, you should catch it. I paid an $8 processing fee for a seat with a seriously obstructed view. But I made out like a bandit when the theater manager started moving people to fill seats smack dab in the middle. It was my first stand-up show and I loved it. GoldStar will get a mention later for sure.

The link above will take you to my referral page so you can get $10 towards your first purchase. With Lottery tickets starting at $20, it’s a sweet deal. TodayTix is a combination of full-priced, discount, Rush, and Lottery tickets. Set the search filter to Price>> Lottery/Rush so you don’t have wade through the full priced shows.

I was going to mention Shakespeare in the Park sooner since it too is free-free, but by far the most convenient way to get tickets is through TodayTix. You can set up an alert in the app to let you know as soon as shows become available. Once the lottery opens at midnight you have until noon to enter the drawing via the app. Then you have to check your email from noon until 2:15pm to see if you’ve won. It’s up to you to claim them in 45 mins. or else they return to the pool. Similar rules apply with the Rush and Lottery tickets. Rush tickets are within the $30 range. Still a sweet deal.

I don’t know how updates work on blogs (I’m so painfully green), but as I use new programs I’ll update. Since I’m a student again, I know there are other free/low cost ticket programs like Student Rush, but I won’t review them until I actually use them. No need to go off half cocked and give out bad information.
Stay tuned!


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