I learned early on in my life as a New Yorker that if I wanted to see theater on more-than-an-occasional-basis, I was going to have to get a little creative. Sure, there’s tons of free shows performed outside during the summer, but what about the rest of the year?
After poking around a bit, I discovered that many of the theaters allow you to see shows for free in exchange for being an usher. The time commitment is only an hour pre-show which is spent stuffing Playbills and politely pointing folks to their seats, and then a quick 5 minutes after to collect any straggling programs or plastic cups of wine left behind. Here’s a few theaters I’ve volunteered at over the years, along with info on how to become involved:New World Stages 340 West 50th Street To volunteer as an usher, choose the show you would like to see and email to email@example.com, including your full name, the shows you are interested in seeing, and at least three dates you are available to usher. The Joyce Theater 175 Eighth Avenue at 19th Street To volunteer as an usher, call 646.792.8355. Second Stage Theatre (2 locations) 307 West 43rd Street or 2162 Broadway To volunteer as an usher, email the House Manager at JSchleifer@2ST.com, including your full name, phone number, and the productions in which you are interested in ushering. York Theatre Company 619 Lexington Avenue To volunteer as an usher, email the House Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org, or reach him at 212.935.5820. Note: This theater also offers free readings that are open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis. You still get the same great production, sans the costumes and scenery. A list of upcoming readings can be found here. The Roundabout Theatre Company (2 locations) The American Airlines Theatre 227 West 42nd To volunteer as an usher, stop by the box office Monday through Friday between 10am and 6pm and sign up for the date you’d like. or Studio 54 254 West 54th Street To volunteer as an usher, stop by the box office on Saturday between 5pm and 6pm to sign up.
While these are the theaters I have personal firsthand experience with, there are a plethora of other theaters that would be happy to have you as a volunteer usher…just reach out and ask! (Editor’s note: So far in my research the only Broadway theater that allows volunteer ushers is the Roundabout, listed above. You’ll get the most luck reaching out to Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway theaters.) You don’t need any special talents or skill sets to usher…just black dress pants, black shoes, a white button down shirt, and a friendly personality! (Although this is New York…the latter is debatable.)