Theatre on the cheap

April 2, 2008 5:25:59 PM PDT
Five fast and friendly bargain hunting tips for theatre aficionados.

With our economy going up and down, most everyone is bargain hunting. However, there are ways that you can still afford a great night out. San Jose Mercury News theatre critic and blogger, Karen D'Souza, has five tips to save some dough and still see a great show.

Many Bay Area theater offer dinner/theater packages involving discounted meals at local restaurants. A few examples include ACT in San Francisco, which offers a 10% discount a nearby Scala (, Berkeley Rep, which offers 10% discounts to Bistro Liaison and Maritime East or a 3-course "pre-theatre" menu at Venus ( and American Musical Theatre of San Jose, which offers a $28.50 pre-show buffet at Paolo's.

I learned this trick in high school when going to a theater was a real strain on the old allowance. Since the final rehearsal happens before the show officially opens, the production is very close to being done but the prices are much lower. The downside is you won't have any reviews to go on. Upside? You can be the first in your circle to see the next big thing.

Many theaters have special deals on slow nights mid-week or early on in a run before a show has built any buzz. Some of the discounts are on a very steep sliding scale indeed. Shotgun Players in Berkeley ( says that since no one should be turned away for lack of funds, they will gladly accept pocket change! Among the other theaters that offer this kind of program are the Magic Theatre (, where tickets go for as little $5, and Campo Santo ( in San Francisco, where the sliding scale goes as low as $10 every night.

If you're itching to see a show but you're not super fussy about what you see, try your luck at the half price ticket booth at Union Square inSan Francisco, run by Theatre Bay Area, the local theater service organization, the booth recently offered half-off tickets to shows as hot as Carrie Fisher's "Wishful Drinking" at Berkeley Rep. Check out the deals online at Or scout out discounted tickets in the South Bay at Sign up for an eSaver account there and you"ll get weekly email updates on some of the best theater buys in town.

If you're a theater junkie -- buy a season subscription. ACT now has sub packages available as low as $70, Berkeley Rep's starting price is $66, AMTSJ gets some packages all the way down to $53.25. The seats may not be the best in the house, but you get to see tons of plays for less than some folks pay for one show!

For additional information on anything Karen spoke about or to contact her directly:

Karen D'Souza
Theater Critic & Blogger
San Jose Mercury News
750 Ridder Park Drive,
San Jose, CA 95190

She is also the Vice Chair of the American Theatre Critics Association

Check out her theater blog, interviews and reviews at