Thursday, September 18, 2008

Seat selection drama

They say anything can happen on stage - that's one of the thrills of watching a performance unfold live, right in front of you. Well, I decided to add some seat-selection drama to the mix.

I just bought a ticket for the Sunday matinee of How Shakespeare Won the West, at the Huntington Theatre Company in Boston. Usually, I go online and get the best available seat in the center orchestra. (I like to be as close as possible). But when the best available seat came up in Row A for $77.50, I did pause.

Yeah, I could afford it, and I've spent that much on a couple of shows at the Huntington. Plus, I routinely pay over $100 apiece for Broadway tickets. But I don't go to New York very often and my traveling dates aren't very flexible. When I do go, I know the shows I want to see and I don't want to take any chances on a lottery or just drop by the TKTS booth to see what's available at a reduced price. It's my vacation, you know?

(Not that I'm adverse to getting a discount ticket for a Broadway show, of course, especially as my New York trips become more than a once-in-a-lifetime thing. I did buy a reduced-price ticket once through Playbill. It was for Passing Strange, which, sadly, could have used the full price. I got a great seat for about $60 in the Belasco Theatre's intimate orchestra section.)

But when I see a show in Providence or Boston and my dates are more flexible, I do like to hunt around for a discount. For shows at Trinity Repertory Company, I routinely get the $15 rush ticket, available at the box office a couple hours before the show. It's a great deal - Trinity's two theatres are both pretty small, so you get a good seat no matter where you sit.

And something about that $77.50 just rankled me. I'd noticed a link for BosTix on Hub Arts, a Boston-based arts and culture blog. I decided what the heck, I'll try it. I always thought that you could only buy same-day, half-price tickets and you actually had to go to a BosTix booth to get them. But it turns out that for some shows, you can go online and buy tickets in advance.

So I registered and got a ticket for How Shakespeare Won the West for $32.50 - less than half price! The rub is, I have no idea where I'll be sitting. I guess I have to print out the ticket confirmation e-mail and bring it with me to the theatre.

My ticket is supposed to be "best available." So if there's one seat left in the orchestra section, do I get it? (And really, isn't there always that one seat left?) Or will I be relegated to the "best available" in the mezzanine or balcony? I don't know. It adds a little bit of drama to the drama of the play. I'll report back after the show. The Huntington isn't an especially huge place and I figure my seat can't be that bad.

Not every performance of every show is available at BosTix. I could only find one performance on sale for Follies at Boston's Lyric Stage Company, and it wasn't on a day when I could go. I may have to pay full price for that one.

But I'll keep looking around. I know Theatermania and Goldstar have discount theatre tickets for Boston shows. I haven't used either one of them yet, so I'm not exactly sure how they work. Along with BosTix, they may be a good alternatives to simply logging in online and saying, give me the most expensive ticket you have.

So, I may regret my decision come Sunday, but for today, I feel like a savvy theatre shopper.


Vance said...

Ha, i totally stress out about seats because Im cheap yet I want the best seats. I know. I think the whole bad economy is based on people wanting the best for nothing.

But when its a really good deal, Im willing to gamble or take worse seats if theres no other choice (basically I weigh in on % savings vs how much worse the seats are).

I'm also willing to chance it and work for lottery/rush/student deals and I dont mind lining up on Broadway but I know most people don't want to deal with that.

I actually get Really annoyed when I finally pony up for tickets and then a better deal occurs but Im pretty savy that it rarely happens. It also depends who is in the show and if Im willing to pay for seats.

As for the huntington, the theatre is quite small that I think everything is fine there! So doesn't really matter too much. Especially for such a great deal.

Esther said...

Yeah, I know what you mean. I'd like to save money but I also want to sit in the third row, center orchestra. Those two things are usually mutually exclusive, so I usually just break down and spend the money!

I don't think I qualify as a student anymore, unfortunately, and with the limited time I usually have in New York, I want my tickets in hand before I get there.

And sometimes, you don't really know how the seats will be. I used the Playbill discount for Passing Strange, and my seat was in the back, on the right orchestra, but on the aisle. The orchestra in the Belasco is pretty tiny, and the Passing Strange set was so minimal, my seat was perfect!

OTOH, I kind of wish I'd bought a premium seat for Spring Awakening. I was in the center orchestra, near the back, behind some people with big hair. I really wish I'd been closer, like maybe the onstage seating!

But I'm sure I'll be fine at the Huntington and it was a good opportunity to check out some of the Boston theatre discounts.

Vance said...

Granted, even when I have done reg price (Macbeth, the Julia Roberts show), the seats weren't THAT great either so I think I lean towards a discount because I'm stubborn and I kicked myself when I heard that Macbeth had great deals a week later. Oh well.

But yeah, I understand having tickets on hand especially when traveling. Strangely, because I'm usualyl on standby, Im the opposite. Id rather NOT have tickets in case I dont make it and just go for rush.

the first time I saw Spring Awakening, I bought tickets beforehand but then a storm hit NY and all flights were cancelled the day before and I basically finally got onto a flight just in time for the show (whew) but that was WAY too close for me and I was freaking out. So rush actually makes me LESS nervous! ha! Especially when dealing with LGA which always seems to shut down!