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StageStruck: Cheapies and Freebies

Summer deals and steals for the thrifty theatergoer

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Thursday, July 05, 2012

With most regular ticket prices at the major Berkshire summer theaters falling in the $50-$60 range and even smaller theaters' tickets pegged at several times the cost of a movie, the fact that these prices are minuscule by Broadway standards doesn't cut much summertime ice with area theatergoers. The sheer number of performances in the summer months makes people want to enjoy more of the on-stage cornucopia instead of pinching pennies and triaging must-see productions.

The theaters, of course, would rather have bums on otherwise empty seats—and perhaps even more important, are anxious to encourage younger patrons who have little spending cash and/or need to pay the babysitter, too. All this has given rise to a wide range of ticket deals for the thrifty theatergoer. Almost all the companies have reduced-price season tickets and preview performances and offer discounts for students and seniors. Many also present free or inexpensive lectures, talkbacks and other special events. Here's a brief rundown of what else is available. Visit the theaters' websites for further info.

New Century Theatre (newcenturytheatre.org) in Northampton continues its popular Pizza and a Play program for each production's Sunday evening performances. All seats are $15 and include a free slice. NCT also offers half-off student rush tickets at the door and actively solicits volunteer ushers, who see the show for free after tearing tickets.

Ko Festival of Performance (kofest.com) in Amherst offers $8 tickets for the first 10 people who arrive exactly one hour before each performance. In addition to reduced-price season passes, single-ticket buyers can save by bringing a posse of six or more to get a $2 discount.

Half-price tickets for most Berkshire venues are available in the 1/2 TIX program organized by Barrington Stage Company and Berkshire Visitors Bureau. Similar to the Times Square TKTS booth, it's a same-day, in-person, first-come, cash-only deal. Visit berkshires.org (search "1/2 tix") for info. That site and (413) 743-1339 post ticket availability at 11 a.m. daily.

Barrington Stage Company (barringtonstageco.org) offers 15 seats at $15 for each mainstage performance, and last year launched an additional deal aimed squarely at the young crowd. For patrons aged 18-35, bsc#35 offers $15 tickets to select performances for members (membership is free).

Berkshire Theatre Group (berkshiretheatregroup.org), which now runs Pittsfield's Colonial Theatre, offers discounted Back of the Balcony seats for the theater's popular concerts. Also at the Colonial, Musical Mondays presents sing-throughs of beloved American musicals by BTG acting apprentices for $10. And the Friday Series features afternoon staged readings and guest lectures on the group's Stockbridge main stage for a $10 suggested donation.

Shakespeare & Company (shakespeare.org) offers student rush tickets at 50 percent off the full price, plus a descending scale of discounts for other categories of theatergoer: 40 percent for full-time Berkshire County residents, 30 percent for children and students, 20 percent for active military and teachers and 10 percent for seniors 65 and over.

Williamstown Theatre Festival (wtfestival.org) offers cash-only rush tickets for available seats beginning two hours before every performance. General rush tickets are $20 for plays and $25 for musicals; student rush are $15 and $20. Friday Family Night offers free mainstage tickets for children 18 and under when accompanied by a full-price-paying adult. There's also Free Theatre under the stars on the Williams College campus, this year presenting a Sherlock Holmes adventure, The Valley of Fear.

The Berkshire Fringe (berkshirefringe.org) targets the alternative theatergoer and virtually specializes in cheap seats. With regular tickets just $15 in advance and $20 at the door, the Great Barrington-based outfit also offers a five-show season pass for $55 along with free preshow concerts and artist-led community workshops. All opening nights are Pick Your Own Price, historically ranging from pocket change to generous donations, and in one case a basket of home-grown radishes.

Contact Chris Rohmann at StageStruck@crocker.com.

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