It is a truth universally acknowledged that a person in want of a theatre ticket needs to be in possession of a great fortune. When you were a kid, this meant the only time you got to travel the Great White Way was when Auntie Rosemary bought you two tickets for your birthday, and that was something you had to come to terms with. But it’s all different now. You’re a student. You have a student loan that we don’t have to pay back for awhile. You live in a big city very different from the small town where you grew up, and there are shows on every week. Every day. The government has given you a big fat cheque that is just sitting there in your brand new bank account, and Wicked is coming on tour in October, and Avenue Q is here in August, and Singing In The Rain closes tomorrow and- oh dear. Suddenly your email inbox is very full of Ticketmaster confirmations, and your fridge is looking distinctly empty.
‘Man cannot live on theatre tickets alone’, and nowhere is this idiom more true than whilst studying at university. The temptation of all these exciting new things on which to spend one’s money is a very real threat, and, one for which, alas, I fell prey. The pull of the National Theatre website was too strong, and, with barely a thought to how I was going to eat for the next month, I merrily signed away £150 in one fell swoop. This proved to be a mistake. There are only so many things one can do with instant noodles and baked potatoes before one sinks into wretchedness, and it is not a path I would recommend. So here, instead, are my top tips to prevent wretchedness-sinking-into (working title), or, alternate title: How To See Shows on a Student Budget.
1.) Prioritise. I know trying to choose your favourite show is, in the words of Neil Gaiman, “like trying to choose your five favourite limbs”, but compromises have to be made. Even if a new production of Les Miserables was coming to town complete with your ultimate fancast (mine would be 1985-era Michael Ball singing every role, pausing every now and again to share his enthusiasm with the audience), you are not going to enjoy it if you haven’t eaten in two weeks, and your rent payment is due. Find out what shows are coming to town. Make a list. Cry over this list. Cut the tear-soaked list down to ten. Weep some more. Then cut it down to five. Five shows over the course of an academic year is not going to bankrupt you. Yes, musical theatre may be your life. But so is not getting scurvy.
2.) Be savvy with your ticket buying. Get in there early. Lots of theatres near me offer cut-price “early bird” deals. Or, alternatively, get in there super-late. Gumtree (for UK people), eBay, TKTS, and the local papers are going to be full of people trying to get rid of tickets at the last minute. Also take advantage of Student Rush tickets and Ticket Lotteries, and ask the ticket sellers if there is standing room. If you don’t mind sharing your sight-line with a pillar and a view of the ladies’ lavatories, there are bargains to be had out there.
3.) Abuse any and all student privileges. You have a student ID: go forth and brandish it. So many theatres, particularly those in university towns, offer discounted or even free tickets to us hard-working souls dedicated to getting a bit of culture into our dark, academia-filled lives. Let’s not dissuade them from this notion. A hopeful look, a strategic wearing of your university’s hoodie/lanyard/etc, and a simple please can get you places. Theatre places.
And please, on a serious note. If you know any good recipes for baked potatoes, hand them over. Wicked is in town again.