Ann Celia makes it a monthly affair - at least.
The New Dorp resident and a couple of galpals head to Manhattan, usually on a Thursday evening, to take in some theater. Sometimes Celia and the crew visit a small venue. Other times it's a big Broadway house.
Sometimes it's a celebrity like Christian Slater who piques her curiosity. Other times it's the draw of a new musical. It's a habit she developed early in life.
"I've always loved the theater," said Celia, who has also traveled to Ireland and Brazil to see theater. "But as the years kept going, it got harder to go to the theater for a working person."
The price of tickets, coupled with family obligations and the rising cost of living, sometimes places Broadway and even some Off-Broadway tickets out of the budgets of many New York City residents.
And yet, Celia continues her regular theater treks and still has funds to eat and pay bills as she has for more than so years. It may take some time, but most New Yorkers can take in the theater and keep costs manageable.
If you have a couple extra hours, you might show up early at the box office to score $25 rush tickets.
Volunteering your time as an usher in exchange for a free show is another way to save. You might even want to speculate on an off-Broadway production which could move to the great White Way and see it first at the smaller venue for cheaper.
Celia learned about two decades ago that she could use her educator's union to help conserve money for theater, music and dance events in the city through the Theatre Development Fund (TDF).REAPING REWARDS
An annual fee of $25 gets you discounts on a variety of events including Broadway shows. Whether you're a member of a teacher's, city workers or construction union, or in the military, a member of clergy or non profit employee, there are discounts to be had on Broadway and Off-Broadway theater tickets.
Membership in TDF can get you Broadway tickets for about $32 and Off-Broadway for $24 or less.
TDF is most popular for running the TKTS booths in the city that offer between a 25- to 50-percent discount on tickets including Broadway shows generally for the day of performance, which is an-other way to take advantage of discounts. The familiar red and white booth draws long lines at the Times Square location. But less foot traffic and a brief, brisk walk to South Street Seaport from the ferry terminal, the downtown TKTS booth can also yield Sunday matinee tickets on Saturday at the downtown lo-cation only. All you need is cash or traveler's checks.
Since 1973, the TKTS booths have sold millions of tickets to live entertainment events. Cash and traveler's checks are accepted as payment and a $3 administration fee is added. Available shows can change daily.
Another way to find tickets at the theaters is to head to the box office at least an hour before a performance to get rush tickets, which generally are $26.50 including the standard theater fee.
It can be risky, if tickets are sold or lots of folks have the same idea.
The key is to be flexible if you want to try for rush tickets. You risk not getting in on the show if there are lots of other rushees waiting and not every theater may offer the discounts. They can only be purchased in person at the box office.
Producers of "The Color Purple," for example, make rush tickets available daily and reserve the first two rows of the orchestra section for rushees. Lines begin forming at 10 a.m. for a matinee and at noon for the evening performance. The top ticket price is $101.25.
If you'd rather not spend time waiting in line, consider volunteering as an usher.
Many non-profit theaters rely on volunteers to help seat guests, give programs and answer questions. Most theaters require that you arrive at least a half hour before show time, but you must first register in person or online.
The Manhattan Theatre Club produces several shows each year, in its Broadway house, the Biltmore, and in a smaller space on West 55th Street. The smaller space utilizes volunteers regularly.
While most Broadway houses have paid and unionized ushers, American Air-lines Theatre, on West 42nd Street is happy to work with reliable volunteers who register in person. For their cur-rent show, "The Pajama Game," starring Harry Con-nick Jr., volunteers are used.HEDGING YOUR BETS
And if you're hedging your bets on shows moving to big theaters, over its history, off-Broadway's Public Theater has brought 49 shows to Broadway, including "A Chorus Line," "Pirates of Penzance," "Top Dog," "Under-dog" and "Caroline or Change."
It can be done, you can become a regular on the New York City theater scene and see celebrities flex their stage muscles or watch the up and coming rise.
For Celia, theater is "a cultural outlet," she said. So for one of her grandchildren's birthday, she splurged and spent $400 to see "Chitty Chitty Bans Bang," But being able to enjoy a discount the rest of the year makes the occasional extravagance doable.
"Everything Is costly. The movies are so expensive," Celia said. "You figure for a few dollars more you can see live theater."
Lisa Ann Williamson writes about theater for the Advance. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org