(By Playbill Staff 04 Jul 2013 )
TKTS, the iconic red-and-white ticket hub located in Duffy Square operated by Theatre Development Fun, which allows theatre lovers and tourists the opportunity to purchase discounted same-day tickets for Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, celebrated its 40th anniversary June 26.
In honor of the milestone celebration, Playbill.com reached out to members of the theatre community to share their experiences of standing in line at TKTS, the shows they saw and more.
Tony Award nominee Douglas Carter Beane
"If it weren't for TKTS, I wouldn't have two shows on Broadway right now," Beane told Playbill in a recent feature. When he was 16, he informed his folks he wanted to go to New York to do theatre. They had a counter suggestion: "Go to New York for one weekend, see some shows and see if you like it." A glamorous, worldly friend in high school told him how to proceed. "Her name was Ellen Walter, and she said, 'Go to the little booth in Times Square that says TKTS. That stands for TicKeTS, and it's put there by TDF, which stands for Theatre Damn Near Free.' So I went.... I came home and I said, 'I have to do this for the rest of my life,' so I will be in TDF's gratitude forever."
Tony Award nominee Danny Burstein
Growing up in Queens, I had a great junior high school English teacher named Stuart Glazer, who brought his students to see Broadway shows. I believe that's when I first saw the iconic logo of the TKTS booth in Times Square. I remember the red scaffolding holding up sheets of white canvas with the classic red lettering and that little white building. It was the only way students like myself could afford to see Broadway and Off-Broadway shows. The first Broadway show I saw? A Chorus Line. My mind was blown and I was hooked.
Over the years I've stood on that line countless times. I bought tickets to see Shadowlands with Nigel Hawthorne and Jane Alexander, Dreamgirls and Sunday in the Park with George. My life is so much richer because of those experiences. I still stand on the line to get tickets and am grateful for it. I was so happy when they started accepting credit cards and I love the new architecture that brings the old and new together. And I also love that it has a space for people to congregate. It's as inviting and vital as it ever was and I cannot imagine New York City without it.
Tony Award winner Harvey Fierstein
When my show Torch Song Trilogy opened on Broadway, it was during the summer and it was very hard to find an audience, opening in July. TKTS kept our show open for 11 months until we finally came around to the Tonys, won our Tonys, and then people bought tickets on their own. But without the booth, we never would have made it that first year...so I owe TKTS a lot!
I think [the first time I used TKTS] was Liz Swados' Runaways in 1978. I loved that thing. I became obsessed with it. It is an underrated, ground-breaking piece, paving the way for all of the teen-friendly Rent, Spring Awakening, American Idiot musicals we have today. That iconic sign meant that it was possible for high school kids with big dreams and little wallets to attend shows.
Tony Award nominee Marin Mazzie
In the spring of 1982 I was a senior at Western Michigan University. I had gotten my Equity card the summer before and I was going to be moving to NYC in the fall. I had only been to the city once, so when spring break came along, it was time for a trip to The Big Apple. I stayed at The Taft Hotel (now the Michelangelo) on 7th Avenue between 50th and 51st Streets. The room was small, shabby and cheap, and the perfect location for my main reason for being there: To see as many shows as possible in a week.
It was a very rainy week, but I didn't care. As I walked the dingy streets of Times Square, I stumbled upon a Save the Theatres rally. It was a movement to save The Morosco, The Helen Hayes and The Bijou Theatres. Joe Papp, Christopher Reeve, Jason Robards and Colleen Dewhurst were all there speaking – something I will never forget.
The friend I was traveling with knew about the TKTS booth, so off we went. We stood in line taking in the city and feeling so energized to be in the heart of one of the most famous places on earth, Times Square. The first show we saw was 42nd Street. Having seen it on the Tonys the year before, it seemed like a great show to kick off our week of theatre-going. We settled into our house left box seats at the Majestic Theatre, the curtain rose, Lee Roy Reams and Wanda Richert were singing "I'm Young and Healthy," and my friend promptly threw up all over the floor. There was no one else in our box, thank goodness, and I immediately jumped up and ran for an usher. She was, in true, wonderful, NY theatre usher fashion, completely unfazed. She said, "Honey, this happens all the time, don't worry about it. Just take your friend home." We sadly left the show and my friend had the flu for most of the week. I, luckily, did not get sick, and saw Crimes of the Heart, The Dresser, Evita, Amadeus, Children of a Lesser God and The Pirates of Penzance. On our last night my friend was better and we returned to the Majestic to see the entire production of 42nd Street. All of my tickets were bought at the TKTS booth, and it continued to be the place I bought my theatre tickets.
I saw TKTS for the first time on a trip with a bunch of my school friends in 2000. I remember getting tickets to see Swing! I thought it was such a magical place – endless possibilities to see any Broadway show you wanted at a discount price. You can still find me, very often, in line at the booth on a night off!
Tony Award nominee Rory O'Malley
During my college years I would fill up my old minivan with fellow Carnegie Mellon students and drive from Pittsburgh to New York for the weekend every few months. It was an expensive trip for seven broke college kids even when you split the gas and piled into one hotel room, so our first stop would always be to the TKTS booth. It was the only way we could get what we came for. Inspiration.
When you are in the middle of intense acting training, it's important to go see great theatre to remind yourself why you're working so hard. That TKTS booth made tickets affordable for a bunch of students to witness their dream in action. Without it, I would have missed many great performances.
Playwright Jonathan Tolins
I grew up on Long Island and when I was in junior high school, I started taking trips into Manhattan with friends on matinee days. We'd take the LIRR to Penn Station, get tickets at the TKTS booth, have lunch at Charlie's (later Sam's), see a show, and catch the train home. It was my favorite thing to do and I saw so many plays I would never have seen without the convenience and discount of the booth. I'll never forget seeing the title of a play of mine printed on one of those orange plastic signs they used to hang on the board (The Twilight of the Golds in 1993). I felt like I'd really made it.
Tony Award winner Billy Porter
It was a brisk fall day in 1986 and I was 17-years-old. My voice teacher brought me to New York City for my college auditions. After my audition for NYU on that Saturday morning in the Village, I followed the street sign that said Broadway all the way up until it stopped smack-dab in the middle of Times Square and the TKTS booth. I bought a ticket to see A Chorus Line. It was my first Broadway show, and Donna McKechnie had returned for a brief stint. Needless to say, TKTS has been my best friend for years! Oh, and incidentally, I did not get into NYU!
Tony Award nominee Christopher Sieber
I moved to NYC in 1988. I was an 18-year-old boy from Minnesota. I had no money, of course, but I wanted to see the shows I came to New York to do. When I heard there was a place you could buy tickets for Broadway plays and musicals at a very discounted price in Times Square – I ran down there – because subways were expensive then ($1!). You could see a show or play for $10-25! Can you imagine?! I saw sometimes 3-4 shows a week and occasionally I would go back and see them again. It is such a great thing to have TKTS in NYC. I was able to learn by watching the amazing performances I was lucky enough to see – to feel the atmosphere and magic of the theatre made me want it even more! I still go back every now and then - hey, ya never know what might be "up on the board!"
This story originally appeared on Playbill.com, and we’re delighted to reprint it here (with their permission.)