We really enjoy going out to an evening of theater or music. Some of these can get quite pricey, especially things like a major symphony orchestra or theatrical production, but it’s worth saving up to do it.
One way to get the cost down is to see if there’s a group rate. If you can get 8-10 of your friends to sign up to see the show, the cost per ticket can come way down, especially if you forgo the convenient online ticket service and just drive down to the box office to buy in person. Those service charges really add up.
While you’re there, ask about their standby policy. A lot of venues will release the unclaimed reservations 15 to 20 minutes before showtime for very reasonable prices. So you hang around by the box office for a little while, and if you don’t get in, go see a movie instead. It’s still a night out.
Don’t forget the great value of the second-run theater. Here in our town the Academy Theater is $3 to see the movies that were $14 at the other theaters a month or two ago. If you don’t mind not seeing everything the second it opens, you can see a lot of movies for the price of one. The Academy even has a “Date Night” deal; two tickets, two drinks, two hot dogs, $20. Bargain.
Here’s a secret about smaller theaters and orchestras: they are usually volunteer organizations in need of help. If you contact them, you may find that there’s a task you can perform for them that will result in you having tickets to the show. For over nine years, I designed the programs, posters, ads and website for the Pasadena Pops Orchestra in exchange for season tickets for myself and a small number of guests. They needed help with something I was able to do and it worked out well for both of us. Other audience members were ushers, merchandise vendors, parking lot attendants, set construction and lighting people, and lots of other tasks big and small. Maybe you’re an accountant, or an electrician, or good at filing. Maybe you can sell ads space in the program book, or provide props or costumes for a play. Not long ago, I supplied the bows and arrows for a local production of “The Mouse That Roared,” and we got to see the show. The nice thing about being a volunteer is you get to spend time with other volunteers; in general, they tend to be active, interesting people who are engaged with life and looking for fun things to do. They will tip you to other cool things you can do for free or cheap.
Another great source of affordable entertainment is your local college or community theater. Sometimes the quality of work can vary greatly, but if you accept that you’re not going to see Broadway-quality performances, you can have a good time.
College shows are an even better deal if you happen to have a college student in your circle who can buy the tickets at the student rate. This is especially true of colleges that have a large auditorium that they book for professional touring productions and concerts.
Speaking of students, most major entertainment venues have an educational program for elementary and high school students; if you have kids, it’s pretty easy to arrange to sign on as a chaperone for a field trip and see a professional show for an absurdly low price. We saw “Beauty and the Beast” through one of these deals, and it included a Q&A with members of the cast afterward.
For concerts, go ahead and get the cheap seats in the nosebleed section. The music sounds the same, and technology has really changed the concert experience; with the giant screens in common use, there’s no longer any such thing as a bad seat. You will see the whole show on the jumbotron, the amplification system is set up to make sure it all sounds great. You don’t need to be front row center unless you really hope the lead singer will notice you and give you a high-five or wink at you.
Check your local paper and see what’s playing this week.