Cheap Theatre? Read On!
— prepared by Art Babayants
Congratulations! This year you will be living in Canada’s most expensive city. Bienvenue à Toronto! Everything is expensive here and theatre tickets are no exception. The good news is most of time it is possible to find tickets that will fit or almost fit your budget. It’s not always easy but it can be done. So read on, young padawans.
Category # 1. Less expensive tickets
Less expensive tickets are readily available through various email subscriptions. If you like Broadway musicals and large-scale productions, subscribe to Mirvish (http://mirvish.com/subscriptions) and Dancap (http://www.dancaptickets.com) mass emails. Occasionally, they will send you “top-secret-only-for-members” codes that will help you “unlock” better ticket deals.
Alternatively, consider buying a multi-show subscription – this way each show will cost you around 25-30 dollars instead of something that looks more like a highway robbery. If you are a fan of classical drama, Soulpepper’s 4, 7 or 10 play subscriptions will be right up your alley (http://www.soulpepper.ca/performances/ticket_prices.aspx). Soulpepper offers excellent prices for students subscriptions ($17-18 a play compared $45). The good thing is you can choose the productions you want to see and change the dates when you want to see them at your pleasure.
Similar to regular subscriptions, there are also various coupons offered through Groupon, Wagjag and sites like that – occasionally, you may get a good deal for Theatre Passe Murraille, Tarragon or Canadian National Ballet. Again, you may get regular email updates regarding any of the groupon-like sites available in Toronto. They are sure to clutter your inbox but they will also save a lot of money.
Category # 2. Cheap tickets
If you’re under 30, you’re in luck…. Through the HipTix programme (www.totix.ca/totix_ca/hiptix_information) you can buy tickets at ‘youth’ prices, which sometimes gets as low as $20 for an opera and $5 for a play. However, if you’re over thirty, don’t despair. Your Option One is rush tickets – almost all the shows including the outrageously expensive Broadway musicals offer rush seats. Tarragon (tarragontheatre.com/tickets) offers rush tickets for Sunday matinees (10 dollars per ticket). The Canadian Opera Company also offers rush tickets for most performances including sold out productions: you’ll have to line for them for sure but it is worth it (weeeeell, most of the time). Make sure to also check out TOtix box on Dundas Square (analogous to London’s Leicester sq and NY’s Times sq booths) for rush and discounted tickets. Another option – buying cheap tickets (20-25 dollars) for most popular productions through UofT’s Grad Student Union (www.gsu.utoronto.ca/escape/) but those often sell out within 5 minutes, so arrive early if you can.
Category # 3. Almost free tickets
Finally, there are PWYCs (pay what you can) and they are truly the answer to your prayers. The suggested donation may vary from 5 to 20 dollars but it’s up to you to decide how much you actually want to pay for this or that production (once I saw a person who paid 1 cent – he must have really hated the actors). A few companies offer PWYCs on a regular basis: Factory Theatre (www.factorytheatre.ca/tickets.htm) and Buddies in Bad Times as well as many other independent theatre companies do it on Sundays, CanStage – every Monday (www.canadianstage.com/discounts).
Now, let also us NOT forget about the twice-yearly DC theatre outing. There is one in the fall semester and one in the spring one. Most of the time, you won’t have to pay anything but occasionally you may be asked to chip in a little bit; the Student Exec will ask you to vote for the show you would like to see.
Alternately, if there is a show that you really want to see, and think your colleagues would be interested too – pick a date and start collecting names – most theatres offer group rates and the DCSU Exec can help you to coordinate your very own group outing!
Category # 4. Free tickets
Volunteer to usher at various venues. The Theatre Centre (www.theatrecentre.org), Buddies in Bad Times (www.buddiesinbadtimes.com/box_office.cfm), and many other independent theatres always look for ushers – you will have to arrive one hour prior to the show and leave 15 minutes after the show is over. And all you will have to do is stuff programmes, check tickets and smile (the third item is optional, though). This ‘onerous’ job will let you see a lot of shows for free. Oftentimes, you can also bring a friend along. Volunteering for Fringe (early July) and Summerworks (early August) will also give a chance to see shows for free, and because they rotate on a daily basis you get to see 3-6 different shows a day. Finally, there are occasionally free show previews, open rehearsals, free opera matinees (coc.ca/PerformancesAndTickets/FreeConcertSeries.aspx), free baroque music concerts (www.tafelmusik.org/concerts/free.htm), free film screenings. However, these require some research, some perseverance, some connections and oftentimes some luck.
What about cinema?
Yes, it is also expensive (13 dollars for 2D and 18 for 3D in Cineplex). However, there are various cinemas in the city where it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to watch a flick: Bloor cinema should be number 1 on your list as it shows awesome films and only charges 7 dollars per ticket once you become a member (10 dollars for non-members). Carlton (College Subway) and Rainbow Cinema (King Subway) are the cheapest in town with 8 and 7 dollars per ticket respectively. In addition, if you made Tuesday your cinema day, you might well get a chance to see movies for peanuts: 4 dollars at Rainbow, 5 bucks at Carlton, and 8 at Varsity (55 Bloor St W). If you’re an early bird, go to the AMC Cinema on Dundas square: on Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings all their tickets are only 6 dollars for ANY movie. Finally, UofT Student Union offers 9 dollar tickets for any Cineplex in the city for any day of the year.
And galleries or museums?
There is a way to get into most museums or galleries for free via the Toronto public libraries. The public libraries let you “borrow” family passes as though they were books to all of the following institutions:
- Art Gallery of Ontario
- Bata Shoe Museum
- Black Creek Pioneer Village
- Casa Loma
- Colborne Lodge
- Fort York
- Gibson House
- Mackenzie House
- Montgomery’s Inn
- Scarborough Museum
- Spadina Museum
- Todmorden Hills Heritage Museum
- Gardiner Ceramics Museum
- Museum of Inuit Art
- Ontario Science Centre
- Royal Ontario Museum
- Textile Museum of Canada
- Toronto Zoo
The number of passes per week is limited, but if your schedule is flexible you might just score a deal! You’ll need a public library card to access them. Visit www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/museum-arts-passes for information about the program, including when and where to go to pick up your pass!
Alternately, most museums have a cheap or free night. For example: the AGO has free general admission on Wednesday nights, with reduced rates on special exhibits; the ROM offers free admission to post-secondary students on Tuesdays (bring your UTorID!); or, you can check out the stars up close at the York Observatory for free, the schedule varies so visit www.yorku.ca/observe/public.htm.
Good ticket hunting!
P.S. If you have discovered any other ways one can get cheap tickets in TO, please do share them with the rest of the DC community!