Here at the Hub we’re all about getting people to go out into our wonderful city and see more live shows! We get it, however: tickets can be prohibitively expensive (and it’s not that we don’t want to support our local arts community, it’s just that the starving artists’ struggle is oh-so-real…)
However, the notion that theatre is a luxury is a misconception; there are many ways of getting your theatre fix and seeing world class performances right here in Montreal for less. Financially challenged and frugal friends, we’re here to help! Check out the master list we’ve compiled on tips and tricks to scoring great seats to the best shows in town without breaking the bank:
- Buy early. If you know there’s a show coming up that you’re keen on seeing, be a step ahead of the game and purchase your tickets in advance as some companies offer early bird discounts. Not only that, but you’ll get your pick of the best seats in the house (if it’s not general admission seating) and save yourself the hassle of having to hunt down a hot stub later (last-minute ticket buyers looking to catch the Segal Centre’s original production of Bad Jews last season, for example, were left in the dust; fortunately it’s back for an encore.) Furthermore, popular shows can sometimes see a bump in price if demand is high.
- Attend matinees or early weekday shows. Many productions schedule early afternoon showings (around 1:30 or 2:00 p.m.) and sometimes the admission prices to these performances are less than those of their evening counterparts. (As a comparison example, tickets to Centaur Theatre‘s The 39 Steps right now are regularly priced at $51.75, but matinees are only $40 and early weekday nights are $46.) If you want to pinch pennies, the general rule of thumb is: avoid Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings.
- Go to a preview. Most professional stage productions will have at least one night of preview performances before officially opening. Sometimes they will even last several days if the show has a long run or is prepping for a World Premiere. Previews are occasionally discounted – and sometimes significantly so (i.e. 50% less) – as the show is still technically “working out some kinks.” Fear not, though, as it can be an exciting experience to see something before everyone else. And it’s much gentler on your savings.
- Become a QDF member. If you are a theatre artist, practitioner, educator or student, you can get industry discounts (minimum 10%) to numerous theatrical productions around the province by becoming a member of the Quebec Drama Federation. By signing up and joining you also receive several other perks such as access to the QDF’s resource centre and professional development workshops. For more details, visit quebecdrama.org.
- See a show at a training facility. Respected institutions such as the National Theatre School (NTS), Concordia University, John Abbott College, and Dawson College have professional theatre programs that put on high-quality productions throughout the academic year. McGill University also has a multitude of student-run groups such as the Savoy Society, Players’ Theatre, A.U.T.S. and Tuesday Night Café Theatre. Tickets to great shows put on by the next generation of stage artists can be enjoyed for as little as $5.
- Ask for rush tickets. Rush tickets are last minute discounted tickets offered based on availability, on the day of the performance (usually a couple of hours or less before curtain time), and they must be purchased in-person at the box office. Before making your way over to a venue to eagerly stand in line, however, give the company a call and ask them about their current rush policy.
- Support small, indie companies. Some of the best theatrical gems we’ve discovered in Montreal were put on by the lesser-known or up-and-coming independent companies that offered tickets in the accessible range of $10-20. The MainLine Theatre, M.A.I., and FreeStanding Room, for instance, are fertile creative spaces that showcase local and touring indie productions year-round. Upcoming recommendations: Kenny Streule‘s City Boy, Snowglobe Theatre‘s His Girl Friday, and Tantalus Montreal‘s Amuse Me.
- Join mailing lists and follow theatre accounts on social media. If you get your names on the mailing lists of your favourite companies and follow them on their respective Facebook/Twitter/Instagram accounts, you’re bound to receive newsletters announcing giveaway contests, promo codes, and specially discounted performances. (Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well as we’re always sharing the goods!)
- Take advantage of your youth. The overwhelming majority of local shows offer student discounts (simply present your I.D. to show proof of age/status at the box office and ask for the reduced rate), but some of the larger regional companies even have special programs for young theatre-goers under 30. With the Segal’s Class Act Card, for example, you can save up to 70% off regularly priced tickets. Seventy-percent, we reiterate. And there’s tons of other really neat perks.
- Get a group going. Most – if not all – shows are willing to provide specially priced tickets for a large party. (Talisman Theatre, for example, has excellent group rates going for Vic and Flo saw a bear, which opens this November). In all cases, your best bet is to call the production company directly to bargain; the more, the merrier.
- Become a member of ELAN. The English-Language Arts Network is a not-for-profit organization that connects, supports, and creates opportunities for Quebec’s English-speaking artists and arts communities. There are many terrific benefits to becoming a member, among them industry rates on Centaur, Segal, M.A.I., TOHU, MainLine Theatre shows and more.
- See community theatre. You’d be surprised at how many community theatre companies in your own backyard are putting on professional quality plays and musicals at accessible prices. Some of our favourite shows have been performed by troupes such as the Lakeshore Players, the Côte Saint-Luc Dramatic Society, and the West Island Theatre Association. Up next: check out NDG Theatre‘s Hunting Moon.
- Visit or register for ticket alerts at www.lavitrine.com. The Montreal equivalent to Broadway’s TKTS Booths, La Vitrine is a unique information centre situated in the heart of city’s Entertainment District (2 St. Catherine Street East) that functions as a central box office for all shows (French and English) in the Greater Montreal area – many of which are offered at special last-minute prices. Sign up – it’s free!
- Attend pay-what-you-can performances. In the noble endeavour to make theatre accessible to all, more and more professional production companies are giving audiences the power when it comes to setting admission prices. Imago Theatre has spearheaded the movement in Montreal with its “Pay-What-You-Decide” philosophy, which allows theatre-goers to determine how much they wish to pay for their ticket, either in person or online, and before or after the show. The NTS and Repercussion Theatre, with its award-winning Shakespeare-in-the-Park summer tours, are other noteworthy adherents of this open policy.
- Check out public readings of plays in development. Catching a glimpse of an unfinished show at a milestone developmental phase can sometimes be just as thrilling as seeing the final product – especially when it enables the greater public to be a part of the creative process. Entry to readings are usually free or by donation. Noteworthy upcoming events in this vein include The Pipeline, which showcases Infinithéâtre‘s annual Write-On Q! playwriting contest winners, and Playshed Theatre‘s wrk n prgss, a platform for local young and/or emerging artists to express and explore their creations.
- Become a subscriber. If you like what a particular company is doing and you plan on seeing many of their shows in their scheduled season, invest in a subscription package. This supports the company year round and, in the long run, really does save you dough as you’re paying significantly less (usually 25-35%) for each individual ticket. Not only are you also guaranteed great seats, but you get perks such as free exchanges, discounts to other events, and much, much more.
- Volunteer. This is perhaps our best-kept secret. The fact of the matter is, essentially all theatre organizations are understaffed and most will be more than happy to offer discounted or complimentary tickets to their shows in exchange for your generous time and effort. Reach out and ask how you can help.
If you do it right, going out to the theatre can be no more expensive than going to a movie on a Saturday night. (Just wait until the movie comes out on DVD — trust us, you’ll see the same acting.) Besides, there’s nothing quite like the experience of a live performance. Join in on the movement to support #MTLTheatre and see a show today!
Did you know that you can search the events in our What’s On Calendar by price? Narrow your results by using the “Ticket Price” filter on the left-hand side on the screen to find shows that fit your budget!