How to: get free or cheap tickets

Whether or not we’re still in a recession, we could all use a few more dollars in our pocketbook. To that end, I asked my Facebook friends in the arts community to offer their tips on getting out to see shows for cheap, or even better, for free. Here’s a distillation of what they had to say:

1. Know what you want: If you have pretty specific tastes in theater or music, it’s worthwhile getting to know the companies or venues behind them. That means getting on their mailing lists, “liking” their Facebook page (Cantus offers “flash sales” on their FB page 24 hours before concerts), subscribing to their Twitter feeds, or even calling them up. Ask them if they have special offers, or will trade comp tickets for volunteer time. While not all venues are big enough to warrant ushers, Amy Rummenie at Walking Shadow Theater Company advises they still might welcome help painting a set, or value a particular skill you have to offer. And remember, if you know you like the work of a particular theater, dance company or orchestra, you can often get deep discounts by buying a season package.

2. Keep your ear to the ground: Veteran “fringer” Scott Pakudaitis recommends checking out discount ticket sites like In addition he says to buy a Fringe button, which will get you a discount to many shows all year round. Then subscribe to the MN Fringe Festival mailing list, to find out which shows are playing this weekend.

3. Be flexible: Great cultural events happen on Tuesday nights, too, you know. Be prepared to go at the last minute (rush!), at an odd time (the Schubert Club offers free concerts at the Landmark Center over the lunch hour), or in an unusual location (you can pay to see a Ten Thousand Things Theater production at Open Book, or see it for free at a homeless shelter, and have a completely different audience experience – try it, you might like it!).

4. “FREE” doesn’t mean “mediocre:” Poet and musician Anna George Meek reminds us the Minnesota Sinfonia gives free concerts, usually at the Basilica and Metropolitan State University. Your local library can get you a free “Museum Adventure Pass” for your family to all sorts of cultural institutions. Check your nearest parks to find out what sort of events they’re hosting, which can often include free theater performances and music concerts. The Minneapolis Insititute of Arts is always free… so are gallery openings. The Walker Art Center is free on Thursday nights. And as actor/playwright Joseph Scrimshaw points out, many theaters offer a “pay what you can” night; if your favorite theater doesn’t, think about giving them a call and telling them you’d really appreciate the option.

5. Finally, (how can I resist?) – become an MPR member! Membership at MPR gets you access to all sorts of discounts to cultural venues all over the state. Further proof that your membership pays back dividends above and beyond what you hear on-air and what you read on-line.

Happy deal-hunting!

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