Arts & Culture

How to score bargain tickets

The Triangle is awash with live arts entertainment. For many of us, what we’d like to see and what we can afford are two different things.

“Arts presenters are mostly nonprofit and ticket sales are crucial,” says Elizabeth Yerxa, director of Triangle ArtWorks, an arts support organization. “But presenters also want to provide inexpensive ticket options so that more of the public can come to value their work.”

Our tips will help you stretch your entertainment dollar. Check presenters’ websites to see which methods of obtaining inexpensive tickets each offers


Many presenters need volunteers for ushering, paper work and selling merchandise in the lobby. Volunteers usually get free tickets to the shows they work on (thanks to reader Marc Lee of Durham for this suggestion). Look on presenters’ websites for volunteer info. Raleigh Little Theatre and the Durham Performing Arts Center, for example, have detailed listings with requirements and options. In most cases, some training is involved but generally the time commitment is up to the volunteer, from one night during a run to being part of a pool for a full season.

Buy one, get one and other specials

When certain performances are not selling well, presenters often announce short-term discounts, generally during a two- or three-day window right before a show but sometimes for one that is months away. These can be two-for-one deals (Theatre Raleigh had them for “Other Desert Cities” this summer) or for special pricing (Broadway Series South sold 25 percent off tickets last month for “The Tenors” in December). To find out about these deals, sign up to receive online alerts from presenters (via email, Twitter and Facebook).

Discounted community nights

Some theaters have designated performances with all seats selling for one low price. Sometimes these are only available at the door. Deep Dish Theater Company offers a number of tickets each Wednesday night for $14 that usually cost $23 to $25, for instance, and PlayMakers Repertory Company has $15 tickets on the first Tuesday of a run for tickets that normally cost up to $45.

Pay what you can

These tickets have no set price and are regularly available for preview nights before official openings or for a specific day in a run. These seats are typically not reserved and tickets are purchased at the door. (Thanks to reader Elizabeth Yerxa of Raleigh for this suggestion). One example: Manbites Dog Theater’s first performance in each run is a pay-what-you-can night ($5 minimum) for tickets that would usually be $12 to $18.

Skip the ticket agents

Major presenters use online ticket agents, such as Ticketmaster, which tack on convenience and facility fees, typically adding 20 percent to 35 percent to the ticket price. A $47 Carolina Ballet ticket costs $60 online, for instance. To avoid most of these fees, call or visit presenters’ box offices. Presenters usually add just a small convenience fee per order (not per ticket). Plus, the box offices often have access to seats not released to the ticket agents, so it’s a good idea to check, even when certain sections appear to be sold out online. (A hat tip to reader Linda Worley of Raleigh for this suggestion).

One more thing

And finally, here’s one option for last-minute discounts:

For major attractions such as arena concerts, Stub Hub, the legitimate ticket resale website, often has good prices in the final days and hours before an event. Although this method risks sellouts before prices drop, bargains can be had as ticket sellers lower prices to ensure a sale. (Thanks to reader Dennis Quisumbing of Raleigh for the suggestion).

But take heed: Buying re-sell tickets from any other online site, such as Craigslist, is risky because of counterfeiting, which also applies to low-priced tickets from scalpers outside a venue. Although state law allows on-site resale (capped at $3 above the face value), it also allows presenters to prohibit re-selling at the venue, so purchasing from scalpers is definitely “buyer beware.”