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Live Theater for Less

Do you gravitate toward movies because it seems like live theater is too expensive? Read on to learn about the myriad of discount ticket options in the DC area.

It is true that theater can be pricey especially for big broadway musicals with large casts.  In fact, The Book of Mormon, which played at the Kennedy Center over the summer, sold some tickets for $250 each. But there are other options for more reasonably priced tickets.

According to Rachel Grossman of Dog & Pony DC, all DC theaters offer pay-what-you-can (PWYC) performances. These may be preview performances when a show first opens or perhaps on a specific day of the week. With this model, each person selects his own ticket price.

Theaters also offer discounts to various groups like students, seniors, and military. Some theaters even offer specially-priced tickets for patrons under 30 years old. Rush tickets are another option for same-day performances. 

Group sales are yet another option for price reductions. Theaters may require a group of 10 or 12 for the discount. The best advice is to check the theater company’s website for specific details on how to obtain reduced price tickets.

Instead of a typical subscription package, some theaters offer a flex pass. At Woolly Mammoth Theater Company, you can purchase a Six-Pack (no, not beer!); it’s six tickets to use in any combination you like. So you could bring six people to one show, see the whole six-show season by yourself, or any other combination. 

If you prefer to purchase theater tickets through a second party, TicketPlace and Goldstar are great options. These services generally offer half-price tickets plus a service fee.

If free sounds good to you, the Shakespeare Theater Company offers a Free For All each summer. DC also has various theater festivals during the summer, including the Source Festival and the Capital Fringe Festival with lots of productions under $20 each.

Another great option for free or reduced price tickets is to volunteer. This could be as an usher, painting sets, sewing costumes, or doing administrative work. Grossman says it’s “...a really great community-building opportunity for not only the theater, but also a way for the general public to get involved with the arts organization that they love.”

NPR’s art critic, Bob Mondello, is a big proponent of local theater: “Any magic that theater has is about being in intimate contact with actors as opposed to watching them up on a big screen. And the miracle of theater happens in store fronts and church basements and all over the place and has for decades for me.” So check out our local theater scene to experience the magic yourself!

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