Fifteen-buck orchestra seats for "The Wiz" are a bit steep when you can have a better view, above the tallest hairdo, for less then one-quarter the price. To stand one row behind the red velvet divider and see the show on your feet you'll pay only $2.50 for matinees and $3 for evenings.
Standing-room-only at the Kennedy Center theaters regularly draws maximum crowds of theater devotees, tough penny pinchers and young folks who don't demand the comforts of plush chairs. Those already sold on the idea of SRO will wish it remained their secret. But you, too, can put on comfortable shoes and share the wealth at the back of the hall.
Many theatergoers don't realize that SRO tickets can be had even when a show isn't completely sold out. Normally a "sold out" notice means five-eighths of the house is taken. And while you may have to camp out at the box office overnight for certain extra-hot engagements, often you can buy standing room tickets right before curtain time.
During the latest run of "La Scala," diehard opera fans would leave one evening performance at 11 p.m. and get back in line to buy the next day's SRO tickets - going on sale 11 hours later. But ballet and opera buffs are unusual that way.
It helps to figure the angles.At a recent Saturday matinee of "The Wiz," three SRO ticket-holders dashed through the doors a half-hour before the show and staked out elbow room. Their advice on getting a good stand: the Opera House floor slopes upward on the outer edges, making the divider ledge a more comfortable arm rest for shorter folks. It's not usually necessary to get there that early, especially since you'll be standing for an extra 30 minutes. Yet veterans insist you won't feel any strain until after the curtail call.
Frequently it's possible to move to excellent seats at intermission. Ushers diplomatically say they can't condone grabbing empty seats, but they won't stop you after act one. The only risk is embarrasment: as one SRO regular confided, "sometimes the ticket-holder shows up late and makes a scene."
The Eisenhower theater has 50 SRO tickets available at $2.50 each for "Players" through Aug. 19. They're gone soon after the box office opens at 10 a.m. for most weekend performances, but you rarely need to queue up before 9:30.
To keep things democratic, the Opera House and Concert Hall restrict SRO sales to one per customer.The Opera House has 50 SRO tickets per performance and hasn't been selling them all, even on weekends. "The Wiz" is there through Saturday.
SROs are available at other theaters as well. Only 20 SRO tickets are sold at National Theater, at $4 each, where "Annie" is nearly sold out through Sunday. Arena Stage is dark until October, but it sells unlimited SRO tickets for $3.50 in season. Ford's Theatre never allows SRO due to fire regulations. The Folger sells and unlimited number of standing tickets at $3.50 each, 15 minutes before curtain. Olney Theater has 48 obstructed view seats which go for $4.50 Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday; $5.50 Friday and Saturday. They're held at the ticket booth until showtime when you can pay the difference and move to better seats if any are vacant. "The Miracle Worker" is there through July 30.
Summer is the busiest SRO season in D.C., thanks to the influx of tourists who don't reserve tickets ahead of time. Seasoned SROers agree that a bomb is a worse bomb when you're on your feet for three hours, but a good performance is good anyway, and worth the extra effort when a hit show costs less then a terrible movie.
That is, er, if you can stand it.