There’s so much non-Broadway theater to see in New York, but tracking down what’s playing and what’s worth your money can seem like a full-time job. Writer and “Who? Weekly” podcast host Lindsey Weber writes “not broadway” on Substack, which is aimed at helping people find great off-Broadway shows that are worth your time. We asked her to share tips on how to become an expert in finding affordable tickets.
Generally, Broadway theater isn’t cheap. Not in all cases, but, generally, if you want to see a buzzy Broadway show and you’re not lucky enough to win a lottery or show up early to the box office or wait in line in Times Square, theater is expensive.
Fortunately, not all theater is “on” Broadway (though so much of it is in Midtown). There are many smaller theaters, smaller production companies and shorter show runs that are more affordable for the average New Yorker. But because everything is smaller, so are the marketing budgets, which means that for the same average New Yorker, it can be a bit harder to know which shows are playing and how to get tickets.
You shouldn’t have to be an experienced theatergoer to catch a buzzy show before it makes its way to Broadway, or 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 know if something expensive is worth splurging on), it might only have a few performances left. And they might even be all sold out.
Here are my tips on how you can spend less and see more great theater in NYC.
If you’ve ever seen a play you liked, subscribe to that theater’s newsletter.
The No. 1 best way to know what is happening at smaller, cooler theaters in New York is to subscribe to newsletters. Is this annoying for your inbox? Yes. Is it a great way to get early access to cheaper, better tickets? Yes! Sometimes when you buy tickets to a show, the theater will automatically sign you up for their newsletter. This would normally be annoying in other scenarios, but for theaters these newsletters are the best way for them to tell you what’s playing and send you coupon codes for major discounts on tickets. Most times, if you commit to seeing a show during previews, you can get a seat for under $30! A steal.
Because I am here to help, I’m going to share with you an extensive — but certainly not comprehensive – list of the theater newsletters I currently subscribe to.
In no particular order:
Try and remember the playwright’s name or the director’s name of productions you liked. Or – even better – the production company’s name.
The more shows you see, the more you’ll know what you like. Then when you see a specific writer, director or theater company you’ll know you’re grabbing a seat and you won’t have to wait for the review. Generally, when it comes to smaller theaters, the sooner you buy a ticket, the cheaper it will be.
Here are some theater companies:
Have you seen more than one show that you’ve liked during a particular theater’s season? Consider a membership.
This is expensive in the short run, but cheaper in the long run. Did you know BAM’s base membership, which costs $85 a year, gets you access to 50% of day-of theater tickets? (It also gets you $8 movie tickets.) Almost every theater has a membership option, and while they aren’t cheap, they could be worth investing in if you’re planning to see all the shows in a season.
Take advantage of being young.
Many theaters have programs aimed at getting younger people to go see theater. If you’ve ever witnessed the crowd at a matinee off-Broadway show, you understand why. And when I aged out of these programs, it really was a huge bummer. But if you are by chance still under the age of 35, you can see so much theater for $30 or below. Here are a few of the best programs: 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.
Be (at least a little) online.
Goldstar and TodayTix are online ticket hubs that will often have discounted tickets to shows that are also somehow still selling the tickets full price, so make sure you check them before you buy to see if you’re missing out on a little 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 still don’t, but if you wanted to get to the box office of a not-sold-out off-Broadway show an hour or so before doors open (but make sure it’s after the box office opens!) there’s a chance you could get a day-of discounted seat.