How to see theater in New York without spending too much money

There’s a lot of non-Broadway theater to see in New York, but tracking what’s going on and what’s worth watching can seem like a full-time job. Writer and “Who? Weekly“Podcast Host Lindsey Weber Writes”not broadway” on Substack, whose goal is to help people find great off-Broadway shows worth their time. We asked him to share tips on how to become an expert at finding affordable tickets.

Broadway theater is generally not cheap. Not in every case, but in general, if you want to see a lively Broadway show and you’re not lucky enough to win a lottery or get to the box office early or wait in line at Times Square, theater is expensive.

Fortunately, not all of the theater is “on” Broadway (although much of it is in Midtown). There are many smaller theaters, smaller production companies, and shorter shows that are more affordable for the average New Yorker. But because everything is smaller, so are marketing budgets, which means that for the same average New Yorker, it can be a little more difficult to know what shows are playing and how to get tickets.

You shouldn’t have to be a seasoned theatergoer to see a lively show before it hits Broadway, or to see something spectacular despite a relatively short run. By the time a fantastic show gets its New York Times Critics Pick (also a great way to tell if something expensive is worth splurging on), it may only have a few shows left. And they might even be out of stock.

Here are my tips on how you can spend less and see more theater in New York City.

If you’ve ever seen a play you liked, sign up for that theater’s newsletter.

The #1 best way to find out what’s happening in New York’s coolest little theaters is to sign up for newsletters. Is this annoying for your inbox? Yes. Is it a great way to get early access to better and cheaper tickets? Yes! Sometimes when you buy tickets to a show, the theater automatically subscribes you to their newsletter. This would normally be annoying in other scenarios, but for theaters, these newsletters are the best way to let you know what’s showing and send you coupon codes for significant ticket discounts. Most of the time, if you commit to watching a show during previews, you can get a seat for less than $30! A theft.

Because I’m here to help, I’m going to share with you an extensive, but certainly not complete, list of theater newsletters I currently subscribe to.

In no particular order:

Try to remember the name of the playwright or the name of the director of the productions that you liked. Or, better yet, the name of the production company.

The more shows you watch, the more you’ll know what you like. Then when you see a particular writer, director, or theater company, you’ll know you’re looking for a seat, and you won’t have to wait for the review. Generally, when it comes to smaller theaters, the earlier you buy a ticket, the cheaper it is.

These are some theater companies:

Have you seen more than one show that you liked during a particular theater season? Consider a membership.

This is expensive in the short term, but cheaper in the long term. Did you know that BAM’s base membership, which costs $85 a year, gives you access to 50% of theater tickets? (It also gives you $8 movie tickets.) Almost every theater has a membership option, and while they aren’t cheap, they might be worth investing in if you plan on seeing every show in one season.

Take advantage of the fact that you are young.

Many theaters have programs for young people to go see theater. If you’ve ever seen the crowd at an off-Broadway matinee show, you’ll understand why. And when I outgrew these programs, it really was a huge bummer. But if you happen to be still under 35, you can see a lot of theater for $30 or less. Here are some of the best shows: Lincoln Center’s LCT, Manhattan Theater Club’s 30 Under 35, Second Stage Theatre’s 30 Under 30, Irish Rep’s GreenSeats, Playwrights Horizons’ 30 & Under.

Being (at least a little) online.

Goldstar and TodayTix are online ticket hubs that will often have discount tickets for shows that are also selling full-price tickets, so be sure to check them out before you buy to see if you’re missing out on a small discount.

Or be completely offline.

Remember how I told you that you didn’t have to stand in line in Times Square to get a cheap ticket? You don’t know yet, but if you wanted to get to the box office of a non-sold-out Off-Broadway show an hour before the doors open (but make sure it’s after box office opens!) there’s a chance you could get a discounted seat for the day.

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