As the 2010-2011 season winds down, local theatres are doing the full-court press to get you to subscribe for next season. And if you go to a lot of theatre, subscriptions are cheaper than buying individual tickets. But shelling out for subscriptions can be a pricey proposition too.
So how do you satisfy your theatre craving on a budget in Winnipeg? Here are some tips:
1. Previews are your best friend. Local companies usually do at least one public preview performance before opening night. Previews sell cheap for two reasons: first, they're technically rehearsals. The show may be stopped (though I've never seen this happen at a preview), and the show can sometimes be "rough around the edges" (I have seen that, but rarely). Second, theatres are eager to build word-of-mouth - so they'll give you tickets at a discount. (For example, the best seats in the house at MTC go for $194 for six preview performances - it'd be $318 if you subscribed for opening night.) The best preview deal in town is at Winnipeg Jewish Theatre, which has, in the past, done "pay-what-you-can" preview nights.
2. Get more bang for your buck. If you have the money to spend on season tickets, you can get a little something extra if you pick the right performance. Opening night season tickets are most expensive, but there's usually a post-show reception, so it's kinda like dinner AND a show. MTC offers "Monday Mixes," which feature pre-show presentations, and post-show talkbacks on select nights. PTE also does "Talkback Tuesdays," as well as "Wine Tasting Wednesdays."
3. Yes, there IS such a thing as free theatre. It's tough to see the big-budget professional shows for nothin', but there are other freebies. The University of Winnipeg theatre department's shows are always free (and are often packed for this reason). The University of Manitoba's Black Hole Theatre Company offers a free lunch hour series called the "LunchBHAGG" series (each of those shows also has a Wednesday evening performance, but you have to pay a whole dollar to get in.)
4. Even when it's not free, student theatre = cheap theatre. Student productions don't have big budgets, and it's kinda like going to a student hairdresser - it might work out really well, or you may be disappointed. But student shows are generally cheap enough to be worth the risk. Both the Prairie Theatre Exchange School and Manitoba Theatre for Young People School have public performances, and tickets can usually be had for under 10 bucks. As mentioned earlier, U of W theatre department shows are free - you have to pay for U of M main stage shows, but they're still a good deal at $15 ($12 for students/seniors).
5. Volunteer! The best place for this is the Winnipeg Fringe Festival - they're always in need of volunteers to help run the massive festival, and volunteers can get free tickets based on the number of hours worked. You help the festival + get free theatre = win-win.
6. Support your local independent theatre. Again, they don't deliver on fancy sets and the like, but there are a few small companies out there doing great theatre - and you can usually get a ticket for about the same price as a movie. Check out companies like Sarasvati Productions (which runs the annual FemFest), Theatre By the River, White Rabbit Productions, or Winnipeg Studio Theatre. (I don't normally review independent shows, but we do our best to put up links to independent shows on our Events Calendar, so that's a good resource for finding out about shows).
Anything I missed? Leave a comment!
CBC Theatre Reviewer