EMMA’S TOP 5 WAYS TO SEE THEATER INEXPENSIVELY

One of the topics I am most frequently asked about by non-New Yorkers is getting theater tickets. First, they ask if I can get them free tickets. The answer is no. There is almost no one in the industry who can get you free tickets unless they are 1) really famous 2) really important or 3) have it in their contract. The only tickets I can get are house seats which are great seats but are quite expensive.

So, here are the best ways to get inexpensive theater tickets according to moi. This is how I get mine and how I generally advise others to get their’s. Got it? Get it? Good. Here we go…

1) TDF- This is my favorite way to get tickets because it is usually the least expensive. However, you don’t get to pick your seats and it can often be hit-or-miss. The other problem here is you have to be a member. You can either 1) sign up or 2) phone a friend (who’s a TDF member). I am a TDF member so if you need me… “I’ll be there…”

2) TKTS- Tickets at TKTS are only available for the day of the show. They are generally 40-50% off the original price of the ticket. That can still be quite a lot of Benjamins but it’s better than paying full price. Be ready to tell them what show you are looking to see once you get up to the window and be sure you are standing in the correct line as one is for plays and one is for musicals.

3) TodayTix- This app is pretty great. It lists discounts for various on and off-Broadway shows and also has lotteries. You don’t get to pick your seats but you do get to choose the general seating area. Then you get to meet a stranger in a TodayTix outfit outside the theater’s marquis who will give you your tickets and that is kind of fun.

4) Rush- Many shows have a rush option. You show up when the box office opens (or a bit before to be sure you’re in the front of the line) and you get any last-minute tickets they haven’t sold/cancellations. You can find out about rush and lottery on broadwayforbrokepeople.com or playbill.com. 

5) Lottery- A lot of shows have digital and in-person lotteries. The in-person lottery is generally two hours before the show, outside of the theater and is only for two tickets maximum. You have to have your ID with you to pick up the tickets and can’t have someone pick them up for you if you have put your name in the lottery. This can be a good option before heading to TKTS for last-minute tickets.

There are a ton of great ways to get tickets to the theater. These are my top five. How do you get yours? What have I missed? Let me know!

STEPHEN SONDHEIM HATES ME

OK I’m exaggerating, he wouldn’t know me if I walked right into him, which I did once. But one particular summer I managed to inadvertently agitate him continuously on a few different occasions.

In the summer of 2003, my mom traveled to Chicago to work on a new musical called Bounce (which has since been re-named, Road Show). It was the world premiere of the musical which was written by Stephen Sondheim and directed by Hal Prince.

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Can we just soak up these pictures for a minute though?

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I was between years of high school with little to do in New York City since I wasn’t a summer-camp-going kid, so I ended up spending a month with my mom in Chicago. As I was a bit too young to explore the city on my own, I spent most days sitting with her in rehearsals and watching the performances in the evening. 

The first occasion when I managed to get in the way of one of the greatest composers of all time began with me riding up in the elevator of the theater to go into the house to watch the show. As the doors opened, I was looking down and didn’t see that He was standing in front of me trying to enter the elevator. I walked right into him nearly knocking him over and was too shocked to vocalize anything resembling an apology. I’m pretty sure I heard him mumble a few obscenities under his breath but I could have made that up in my mind as I tend to be pretty sensitive. This was the least horrible of the three events. 

On another occasion, I was sitting in one of the first few rows of the house watching a rehearsal. Most of the creative team was scattered in various seats around the theater behind me. While I was watching, I noticed that one of the conductor monitors behind me wasn’t on and I looked to the other side of the mezzanine to see if that monitor was turned on. I suppose I wasn’t aware that I was being disruptive to the people seated behind me. I quickly learned that I was when I heard Sondheim’s voice loudly lamenting to his colleague “who is that girl and why does she keep moving around? She’s distracting me!” I did my best to stay very still from then on whenever I was in his holiness’s presence.

The final event that really solidified his dislike for me was during one of the evening performances at the Goodman. I got too distracted in my mom’s dressing room to get to the house before the first act started. I decided I would go up at intermission and find an open seat to watch the second act. I went into the theater and found a seat in the last row and sat down. Just as the second act started, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a man behind me standing against the wall. He spoke with an usher briefly and continued to stand. I didn’t realize until the lights came up at the end of the show that it was Sondheim. I later found out that I had taken his seat, leaving him with no choice but to stand for the duration of the second act. Why he didn’t use his royal status to get me to move, I’m not sure. That is truthfully how it went down… at least in my memory of it. 

I really like to say that Sondheim hates me ’cause, as they say, it’s better than indifference. The truth is, he has no idea that I exist. For him, I am a blip on the screen that is his fabulous life. For me, he’ll always be one of the greatest lyricists/composers of all time. Nearly 15 years later, I still like to bask in the glory of our less-than-desirable interactions. 

“Any moment, big or small,
Is a moment, after all.
Seize the moment, skies may fall
Any moment.”

A CAREER PATH I ONCE TOOK/ TWO ROADS DIVERGED

Over the years, I have known that I wanted to have a career in the theatre, but I was uncertain as to exactly what that career would be. I have had many incredible opportunities; I was an intern to a Stage Manager on the Broadway revival of Gypsy with Patti Lupone and an intern on the Broadway production of The Phantom of the Opera. I briefly attempted singing and acting as an ensemble member of a workshop for a new musical headed for Broadway. (“headed for” is important. It didn’t make it). I interned for a sound designer in San Diego at the Old Globe Theatre.  I was a dresser for a number of years. Now I have recently (and finally) found what seems to be my “home” in casting. If my pursuits seemed random, you might say that the constant thread is the fact that I steadily pursued jobs in the theater (except that one time when I tried being a vegan chef).

My longest experience in one career path was as a dresser. It was also one of the most fun. I started one summer between my junior and senior year of college. Let me back up a bit in case you don’t know the specifics of what a dresser in the theatre does. Generally, a dresser is assigned to one or more actors whom they dress every night. They are responsible for pre-setting all of the costumes that the actors will need throughout the show, making sure that the costumes are in good shape (no rips, buttons falling off, etc), making sure the actor is comfortable and ready to perform, and assisting with any mid-show costume changes. My first job was as a swing dresser for The Phantom of the Opera. A swing learns many different wardrobe “tracks” in the event that a permanent dresser is sick or goes on vacation. As a dresser you need to a) stay out of the way of moving sets and fast moving people, and b) try to make everything as seamless for the actors as possible. This can be particularly challenging if you are doing a different track every night. I worked at Phantom for the duration of that summer, learning 9 out of 16 tracks in the show.

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Some of the Phantom wig and wardrobe girlies
The lovely Sarah Bakker on the night of her first performance as Christine
The lovely Sarah Bakker on the night of her first performance as Christine
The Raoul boys
The Raoul boys

 After college, I returned to the city and went back to dressing. I continued to dress at Phantom and also began subbing in wardrobe at Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark, two completely different experiences. Going between those two shows was a trip. One night I might be helping someone get into a giant dress with a corset and a big bustle and the next I’d be zipping someone into a skin-tight spider suit.

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After Spiderman closed, I was asked to work on the revival of Cabaret as a full-time dresser. This was my first time not only having my own track, but creating it from scratch. I dressed the character Fraulein Kost throughout the entire show, helping other dressers with quick changes at various points as well. My time at Studio 54 was truly incredible. Watching Alan Cumming return to the role that made him famous was an experience I’ll never forget, not to mention making lifelong friends with such an amazing group of coworkers.

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Dressers hard at work
At Tony rehearsal

One of the things I love most about being a dresser are the fun traditions you create. Because the job requires you to do to the exact same sequence of events every night at the same time with the same people, you start to develop jokes and rituals with different people backstage. Every night after the call for places, Alan would come down the stairs in his Emcee costume and do pull ups on the stairs in front of us. When he walked by he would say the same phrase to the actors as he passed them, wishing them good luck. In the first act as one actor ran by to enter his scene, he would do a different kind of dance, entertaining those of us who were waiting for our next cue. At the end of the first act, when the actor that I dressed left her scene from one side of the stage and walked to enter at another side, she would get high fives from everyone she met on her path to her next entrance. On her final night, we arranged to have a huge line of people waiting to high five her. She wasn’t able to make it through that scene with dry eyes.

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One of my favorite traditions was during act two with my friend and floormate Danny who played Herr Schultz. Every night we (he) would come up with a joke of some sort and we would greet our other floormates Aaron (Ernst Ludwig) and Gayle/Hani (Fraulein Kost) as they exited the stage. Our jokes would range from full on skits to just wearing signs on our clothes. Any pieces of paper required for these jokes were later taped onto one of the dressing room doors on our floor. It turned into quite a work of art.

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I always say they should sell tickets to be backstage during a show instead of in front of the stage because that’s really where the magic happens. Dressers are just one group of so many incredible people that are crucial in making the experience of going to the theatre magical.

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