How to Succeed in Seeing Great Theater Without Really Trying
New York City is world-renowned for its seemingly infinite theater community, from twenty years of Phantom of the Opera to the tiniest black box theaters in the backs of grocery stores in Queens, but it can be difficult to find tickets and the right show on a budget, with quality somewhat guaranteed. Here are the Riverdale Review’s recommendations for experiencing the best of the scene:
The TKTS Booth and App
Remember the sleek red steps in Times Square the cast of Glee danced on when they came to New York? No? In any case, under those iconic steps there’s a series of counters at which to buy same-day, heavily discounted Broadway seats. If you’d rather not trek to 42nd street pre-show, or to their satellite locations in Brooklyn and at South Street Seaport, their app has roughly the same offerings.
The TodayTix App
TodayTix is a competitor of TKTS’s, with cheap-ish same-day tickets to Broadway and off-Broadway shows, but what’s so compelling about it is its lottery feature. With two taps you can enter to win $19.84 tickets to the Broadway production of 1984 or, during the summer, free tickets to Shakespeare in the Park, without waiting on line for five hours. They’ve recently expanded the number of lotteries, so it behooves you to download the free app and check periodically.
Hiptix High by Roundabout Theater Company
Roundabout Theater Company is a fifty-year-old, highly-respected nonprofit theater company based in Times Square. Its productions win countless Tonys, and with a quick Google search you’ll stumble upon its incredible program for high school students to see every show for only $10 a ticket. Just don’t admit that to your neighbor who paid $100 for their seat…
New York is riddled with universities and conservatories running renowned theater programs that each put on dozens of shows a year. Because they’re amateur, tickets are cheap if not free, and productions can range from avant-garde Shakespeare to Guys and Dolls. Events calendars for NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Fordham, Columbia/Barnard, Juilliard, Manhattan School of Music, PACE, and The New School all have exciting student productions to go see. Scrolling through events calendars you might find something that isn’t quite a performance, like a lecture or panel, but that is just as good. Colleges have nearly infinite guest speakers.
The New York Public Library
The NYPL system has film screenings, performances, and author visits in many of their locations, although the high-profile offerings (i.e. Jeffrey Sachs, Tony Kushner, etc) tend to be at either the Bryant Park or Lincoln Center libraries. It’s $25 for serious impress-your-English-teacher kudos.
The Improv Trifecta
The Improv Trifecta is an unofficial consortium of the three ‘big’ improv theaters, made up of The People’s Improv Theater (PIT), the Upright Citizen’s Brigade (UCB), and the Magnet Theater. Although UCB is the most famous (it launched the careers of Amy Poehler, Aziz Ansari, and Jean-Ralphio from Parks and Recreation, among many others), all three feature multiple shows per night, tickets as cheap as $5, and a cool Chelsea/West Village location, if you’re in the mood to experience ‘the real New York.’ Performances range from in-house groups doing longform improv (about an hour long, the same format as what Riverdale Improv does) to stand-up to sketch to serious plays to unclassifiable modern-dance-parody-short-film-with-projections. You never quite know what exactly you’ll see, but it could feature the stars of SNL five years from now!