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Tips for Getting Cheap Theater Tickets in Chicago

As an acting student, one of the best ways to hone your craft is to watch other masters in action. That means making the effort to go out and see as much live theater as you can to absorb all of the great talent in this city.

Unfortunately, getting tickets to lots of live theater can be expensive, especially if you’re already shelling out for acting classes. Luckily, there are ways to get cheap theater tickets and score big discounts to some of the hottest shows in town — as long as you know where to look.

Here are some of the best ways to get cheap theater tickets to live theater performances in Chicago.

  1. Buy Your Tickets the Day of the Show
    If you’re dying to see a hot show in town and you a) don’t want to wait months to see it and b) can’t afford the regular priced tickets, you can snag deeply discounted tickets on the day of the performance. The musical Hamilton, for example, gives away 44 tickets per day for $10 each to people who have signed up in their digital lottery. Just log onto the site in the morning, enter your name and wait for an email telling you you’ve won.Steppenwolf offers 20 tickets at $20 each on the day of each performance as well. Just call the number as soon as they open in the morning and hope that you’re one of the first people on the line.
  2. Go to a Preview
    Preview shows are always cheaper than regular tickets because the actors are still working out the kinks of the show. Actually, for an acting student, this is a great time to observe how actors work through their initial nerves and start shaping their performances. Generally, preview tickets are about 25 percent cheaper than the regular tickets and are available at most theaters.
  3. Use Your Student ID
    If you’re still a college student, you can use your student ID to snag discounted tickets to most theater productions around the city. At Steppenwolf, for example, student tickets are only $15, and Lookingglass Theatre offers student rush tickets on the day of the performance for $20 each.
  4. Use Goldstar
    Goldstar offers half-price tickets available to a multitude of shows around town, and even some tickets that are completely free! Goldstar is great because you can filter your search by date and location, plus it’s super easy to use from your phone, and it also had push notifications you can set up for your favorite theaters or shows. You can even download the tickets to your passbook and calendar from the app if you use those other applications.
  1. Try Today Tix
    Another discounted ticket site, Today Tix originally started in other markets and has only recently come to Chicago. The discounts aren’t as deep as the ones on Goldstar, but you can still save anywhere from 20 to 50 percent on tickets to shows happening either today or up to one week in advance. It’s also an app you can download to your phone.
  2. Search Groupon
    While most of the events on Groupon are geared toward either touristy shows or bawdy drinking/burlesque shows, there are always a few regular theater productions sprinkled in the mix. And the deals can be pretty good. Right now, for example, you can get tickets to the Collaboraction Pentagon Theatre’s production of “Women” in Wicker Park for only $13.75. That’s more than 30 percent off the regular $20 ticket price.
  3. Check Out League of Chicago Theatres
    The League of Chicago Theatres runs a website called HotTix that offers half-priced tickets to a variety of shows all over the city. Some theaters list their shows on the site far in advance, while others only announce their discounted tickets the week of or the day of the show, so it’s best to check the site frequently for deals.
  1. Organize a Group
    Want to become super popular? Organize an outing for your whole acting class to go out and see a play together. (Bonus brownie points if your teacher happens to be acting or directing in the play!) Usually discounts are offered for groups of about eight or more, and discounts can range anywhere from 10 to 20 percent off. Plus, getting everyone to have dinner together beforehand is part of the fun.
  2. Buy a Subscription Package
    Yes, you’ll have to shell out a larger amount of money for this, but if you plan on attending all of the shows at a particular theater anyway, you’ll definitely save money by getting a subscription package. At Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, for example, you can save 30 percent by getting a subscription. And they even have packages of just preview shows for only $59 for the entire season.

Other random tips:

  • Are you under age 30? Head over to Theatre Wit, where people under age 30 can get tickets for only $20 (that’s a 42 percent savings off of the regular $35 price).
  • Steep Theater gives 10 percent of their tickets away for only $10. They usually announce these discounted tickets about two weeks in advance of the show, and they’re available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
  • Military personnel can often get a discounts as well. Both Steppenwolf and Lookingglass offer discounts for veterans, active duty personnel and their families through the Bluestar program. Check out this list for participating theaters.

Have any other tips for getting cheap theater tickets? Let us know!