New York Theater 101

I LOVE theater.

There was a year when I saw over 80 shows. Broadway, off-broadway, and off-off broadway, all included.

For me, theater is a great way of getting to know the city you are visiting, the history behind, and the emotions brewing underneath the fabric of the city and its everyday commotion.

It also helps create those magic moments that mark a certain period of your life, or ties you to a particular city, as there aren’t many other activities where both performers and participants contribute to and celebrate the euphoria of the here and the now.

I will always remember the December day in 2015 when I saw David Bowie’s Lazarus at New York Theater Workshop, which led to an intense period of newfound interest in all things Bowie.

Or the day when I saw at the Public Theater The Gabriels: Women of a Certain Age on November 7, 2016, the day before the presidential election. They play, whose plot documents the day before the presidential election, played both before and after the actual election.

The conflicts of electing a woman and the prospect of having the U.S.’s first female president, all seemed like a distant dream trapped in a time capsule when the play continued to play when the results demonstrated otherwise.

And the best perk of seeing a show in New York? Sometimes you get to meet see movie or theater stars seeing shows. I’ve seen Dame Helen Mirren, and Jake Gyllenhaal (three times!).

On the latest reviews:

Keep an eye out for the New York Times’ theater section. The newspaper has a team of theater reviewers, so there is a good chance a show will be reviewed to give you a pretty good idea about the show’s plot and how good is it. Reviews are rather personal, but a rough guide, nonetheless. I also check Time Out as well as, particularly their YouTube channel, for show clips. (Check out this excellent clip of Cristin Milioti singing David Bowie’s Changes in Lazarus.)


Many people line up at TKTS’s discount booths at Times Square, Lincoln Center and two other locations, but I’d rather check Today Tix’s app for discounts and lotteries. Beware of the fees though, as every ticket purchase comes with a $12.5 handling fee. Theater Club has a Gold Club where one pays a monthly fee of $10.99 or $99 yearly to gain access to complimentary tickets to a selection of shows. Gold Club charges $5 handling fee per complimentary ticket, but still, it’s a steal. Similar services include Play by Play, and Audience Extras. Another one worth checking out is Goldstar which has not only discounted tickets to lesser known performances, but also tourist attractions.

Lining Up:

This is often the cheapest way of seeing a popular show, but it involves a bit of lining up and pre-planning. Many theaters have a rush policy, where people have to be at the box office when it opens for seats that are reserved for rush or for returned tickets. Others, like Wicked, have a lottery at the theater where names will be drawn an hour or so before the show, meaning you have to be there much, much earlier to put your names in and wait for the lots to be drawn. There is no guarantee to whether one can get seats or whether you and your friends will be seated together, but if there is a show you are dying to see, it is almost your last resort. Playbill has a good list of what shows have such policies and what to do. And if you want to see Shakespeare in the Park, by Public Theater, lottery or lining up at the park or at Public’s box office, are the only ways to score tickets to the free shows.

Good luck!

Let me know what show was the biggest score you’ve had in New York theater.