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Cheap Tricks

Recently, the Theater Development Fund (TDF) opened a third TKTS discount booth, its first in Brooklyn. The booths are beloved of New Yorkers and tourists for offering tickets to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows at deep discounts. (The Brooklyn outpost will also offer tickets to Brooklyn events. Hmmmm, wonder if BAM and St. Ann’s Warehouse will pop up there…)

Anyway, the thing with the booths is that you’re never entirely sure as to what will be on offer, and you have to see the performance that very evening—though you can buy matinee tickets the previous day. In other words, the booths encourage spontaneity. And spontaneity is seriously endangered these days. Big rock shows sell out a few minutes after being advertise and you have to be pretty well organized to score tickets; if you subscribe to series at BAM, Lincoln Center or the ballet, you block out your dates weeks, often months before the actual performance. And of course everybody’s life seems perpetually overbooked—even kids run around from school to after-school activities, only to relax at “play-dates” set up by their parents.

This is madness, people, madness!

Ahem. Back to the TKTS booths. What’s great about them is that they foster impulses. Say it’s 2pm and you want to see a show that evening: You go to one of the booths and check out what’s on the board. A few minutes later (well, quite a few if you went to the Times Square outpost, always the most crowded), you have your tickets for the evening. This is stark contrast to the usual rigmarole of booking online (and pay those astronomical fees!), and the kind of impulse purchase I totally endorse.

The approach may foster a slightly different relationship with the show as well: When you’ve forked out hundreds of dollars for a pair of tickets, the heightened expectations may lead a lot of audience members to seek a kind of show that delivers pure entertainment. It makes theater a special occasion, not part of everyday life—while theater is special, going there should also feel so ordinary that one is willing to take the risk of seeing something bad.

Indeed, in addition to the fun of making last-minute plans, the booths also encourage risk-taking: Because the prices are much lower than the regular ones, you may end up seeing a show you may not have picked otherwise. At performances, I sometimes chat with neighbors who say they didn’t know anything about a particular play but confide something along the lines of “I had already seen everything else at TKTS and I figured why not?” Of course sometimes the gamble doesn’t pay off and they end up loathing the show, but at least even if they leave at intermission, it will have been a half-price mistake.

The new Brooklyn TKTS Booth can be found at 1 MetroTech Center:

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SundayArts is made possible in part by First Republic Bank and by the Rubin Museum of Art. Funding for SundayArts is also made possible by Rosalind P. Walter, The Paul and Irma Milstein Foundation, The Philip & Janice Levin Foundation, Elise Jaffe and Jeffrey Brown, Jody and John Arnhold, and The Lemberg Foundation. This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Additional funding provided by members of THIRTEEN.
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