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Hot Tips for Cheap Seats

  Hot Tickets

If you love theater but find your enthusiasm dimmed by the high price of tickets, take note: You can get great seats for less at most area theaters. All you need is a little persistence and these pointers:

12th Street & Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, D.C.

One of the more economic ways to obtain cheap tickets is through TICKETplace. They offer half-price, day-of-show tickets to a variety of performances in the D.C. metropolitan area throughout the year. Tickets are sold in person only at the TICKETplace box office located in the Old Post Office Pavilion. Tickets are sold on a first-come, first-served basis. Credit cards are not accepted.

Woolly Mammoth Theatre
1401 Church St. NW
Washington, D.C.

The first two previews of every show at Woolly Mammoth are pay-what-you-can performances, and the line can get a little hairy. Bargain hunters start lining up around 6 p.m., tickets go on sale at 6:30, all 132 tickets are generally sold by around 6:40 and latecomers leave empty-handed. But hey, no one said cheap seats always come easy. Still, if you're hard-pressed to make it to the theater in time to take advantage of the deal (PWYC performances are always on a Monday and Tuesday), you have a few other options. The theater will periodically place ads in the papers offering two-for-one tickets. Seniors 60 and over get $5 off their tickets, and subscribers get a 25 percent discount. If you want to put a little more work into it, you can always volunteer to usher and see the show for free.

Arena Stage
Sixth Street & Maine Avenue SW
Washington, D.C.

Arena Stage, the grande dame of D.C. theaters, might have the best cheap-seat deal in town. The theater sets aside discounted tickets, or "Hottix," for every show (the exact number of tickets varies according to the show's popularity). These half-price tickets go on sale 90 minutes before each show and sell for cash only at the box office. Then, whether or not they all sell, they go off sale one hour later (half-hour prior to curtain). Is that a deal? The box-office staff recommends getting to the theater about 30 minutes before the Hottix go on sale. The theater also offers a 15 percent discount to seniors 60 and over and to the disabled and a whopping 35 percent discount to students with valid ID. Ticket prices range from $37 to $45, so that's a big savings. And if you're looking to make a long-term commitment, subscribers save up to 47 percent.

The Signature Theatre
3806 S. Four Mile Run Dr.
Arlington, Va.

The Signature Theatre's growing popularity and small size mean that cheap seats can be difficult to come by. No formal student or senior discounts are available, and even subscribers save only about 8 percent on a season of tickets. Still, with a little diligence, you can pay less to see the same show as others who shell out the big bucks ($18 to $23 for plays, $21 to $25 for musicals). Bargain hunters should check the newspaper for announcements about rush tickets ($10, one hour before the performance). Rush tickets are often available on the first one or two nights of a show's run and on slow nights thereafter. But here's a tip you won't find anywhere else (as far as we know): If you call the box office the day of a show and ask about rush tickets – and a fair number of seats are still available – the folks there may just give you the discounted rate, even if it hasn't been advertised.

National Theatre
1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, D.C.

You might not get $20 rush tickets to every show that comes to the National Theatre, but frugal theatergoers can often score cheap seats. At the producer's discretion, these tickets are available at the box office for cash only on a first-come, first-served basis two hours before show time. Some shows are more popular than others, so you may need to get to the theater earlier. Students ages 4 through college, seniors 65 and older, military personnel grade 4 and below, disabled patrons, and Department of Human Resources cardholder can get half-price tickets every Tuesday and Wednesday evening and for one of the two matinees on weekends. The tickets can be purchased at any time at the box office, but only a limited number are available in each seating price range. Bargain hunters who don't fit into any of these categories might also check Ticketplace (202/842-5387/information) for tickets to a particular show or contemplate standing-room tickets, which are sold for $20 after a show sells out.

Source Theatre Company
1835 14th St. NW
Washington, D.C. 20009

Pay What You Want at the Source on the Wednesday and Thursday before an official Saturday opening of a Source Theatre Co. production. Preview for whatever price your pockets like the same show that will cost $20-$25. There is no minimum charge, so you can indulge your most frugal impulses – just remember it's called "Pay What You Want," not "Free Show Jamboree."

Tickets are available one-half hour before the show. Be sure to call Source Theatre Co. at 202/462-1073 to confirm preview show times.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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