When I started this feature a few years ago, I shared a few traditional and creative ways to see theater in D.C. for $35 or less. Last year, I dropped my budget bar down to $30. This year, I'm building upon that list of thrifty tips and challenging myself to find shows for $25 or less. Now, of course, this list doesn't include parking or snacks during intermission.
Invited Dress Rehearsal (IDR)
Actors and theater staff can invite people to a last rehearsal before previews start. IDR's are free, but you should know someone in the cast or theater. Sometimes photographers take pictures for the show at the IDR so you may get to see the official stage pictures, literally.
These shows occur about a week before opening. The director, designers and actors can still make changes to the play during this period. If it's a new play, the playwright can even change the script. These previews are offered at a reduced rate.
Pay What You Can (PWYC)
Name Your Own Price
Theater Alliance in Washington, D.C. and Forum Theatre in Silver Spring, Md. offer a limited amount of tickets an hour before every show. You literally name your own price. TheatreWashington has a Show Selector where you input a price and the output lists shows within your range. I put in $25 and 33 shows came up for the month of March.
Most theaters offer discounts for students, seniors and military. Some theaters offer savings programs based on age, residency, and being in the right place at the right time. Here are a few examples:
- Shakespeare Theatre Company (Washington, D.C.) - STC gives away 1,000 tickets for each show via the FREE WILL program.
- Rep Stage (Columbia, Md.) - $10 Thursdays -- These are single tickets for ALL Thursday performances, including the Thursday previews.
- Mosaic Theater (Washington, D.C.) - A limited number of $20 rush tickets are available for every performance day, on a first-come, first-served basis. They offer PWYC at their first preview.
- Kennedy Center (Washington, D.C.) - Free performances at Millennium Stage 365 days a year at 6 p.m. No tickets required.
- 1st Stage (Tyson's Corner, Va.) - Military and student tickets are $15.
- Constellation Theatre (Washington, D.C.) - $25 seats are located in extreme locations of the theatre.
Some theaters have volunteers for ushering, ticket collecting and other important tasks. In return, they see the show for free. A few examples include Studio Theatre and Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C. and Signature Theatre in Arlington, Va. offer such opportunities.
Actors use scripts during these performances. Most times the play is in its initial stages and could be the first time the playwright hears it out loud. Other times it could be an established play for an event. Either way, you get the professional energy at a reduced price or for free. Everyman Theatre in Baltimore, Md. offers a Salon Series of staged readings...with cocktails! Tickets are $20.
Broadway offers many free tickets through daily online lotteries. A few D.C. theaters have partnered with TodayTix to offer lotteries. For example, TodayTix and Ford's Theatre offer a mobile lottery for each first preview production through the remainder of the 2018 season. Entrants have the chance to win up to two FREE tickets for a preview production.
Many of the local children's theaters like Adventure Theatre and the Puppet Company in Glen Echo, M.D., plus Discovery Theater (The Smithsonian Theatre for Young Audiences) in Washington, DC offer tickets below $20. The tickets at Imagination Stage in Bethesda, M.D. start at $15. These shows are for very young children.
Theater departments at our local universities are the pipeline to Broadway and Hollywood. These college productions feature classic as well as contemporary plays and musicals. Some of the shows are even directed by local working actors. Tickets can be less than $20.
- University of Maryland's School of Theatre, Dance & Performance - Military and UMD Alumni tickets are $22
- Howard University Department of Theatre Arts Ira Aldridge Theatre (Alumni include Black Panther's Chadwick Boseman, Phylicia Rashad, Anthony Anderson, Taraji P. Henson) - Tickets range from $10-$20
- Catholic University Department of Drama, Hartke Theatre - Tickets range from $10 - $20
- Montgomery College Performing Arts Department, Robert E Parilla Performing Arts Center - Tickets are $10; $8 for seniors; $5 for students with ID