Days may be numbered for the fabled TKTS booth (the "Half-Price Line") operated by the Theatre Development Fund in New York's Times Square, now that the League of American Theatres and Producers reportedly is contemplating opening a discount ticket booth of its own.
For 23 years, those standing on those two long lines have included students, tourists, older fans and just about anyone who loves theatre but hasn't been able to afford full price at the box office.
Because the booth sells discount tickets only for that day's show, people have evolved all sorts of strategies for getting the best. There are the early birds who prefer to be first, the daredevils who dash to the booth at 7:45, hoping to luck into house seats, etc.
Benevolently supervised by a statue of George M. Cohan, the line also attracts street entertainers, political haranguers, hawkers of every sort, and self-appointed experts who announce their opinions of the day's offerings, unsolicited. It can get pretty colorful.
Before the line disappears into history (which it may yet be saved from doing) please share with us your favorite Line Tale -- anecdotes about people you met, great tickets you lucked into, your most successful strategies, something you saw, or any memorable life experience while standing on Duffy Square, the right triangle bounded by Broadway, Seventh Avenue and 47th Street.E-mail your anecdote to Playbill On-Line Managing Editor Robert Viagas at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please include your town and state, and please note whether you'd like us to include your full e-mail address so you can receive responses. This is optional, of course. Here are the results so far. Playbill thanks all those who took the time to write.
Back in December, 1988, I was living in Allentown, PA, having recently moved from Florida. On the spur of the moment two days before New Year's Day, I called some friends in Florida and talked them into coming up for the Times Square bash. They said it was a great idea, and besides, they really wanted to see "Into the Woods." They jumped in their car, drove straight through, got to my house, whereupon we caught the bus into the city. Having heard horror stories about the big party, we left our wallets at home, carrying just enough cash for food and tickets at TKTS. Well, we stood in line for hours, as you can imagine, what with all the holiday hubbub. A woman from the upper west side was behind us, and we struck up a conversation. Okay, so she was doing more flirting than conversing, but we enjoyed the theatre talk, and it passed the time.
We finally got to the head of the line and made our requests for "Into the Woods." The gentleman behind the window produced the three tickets and told us the price. When we put our cash together, we found we didn't have enough. It seems the tickets prices were raised for the special holiday performance, and we were $25 dollars short. Yikes. But without batting an eye, I turned around to the flirt behind me and asked her for $25. And without batting an eye, she handed it over! Can you imagine? This is the woman who had let several panhandlers pass her by without dropping so much as a quarter in their hands, but she was willing to part with $25 to a bunch of strangers. I like to think this has something to do with the friendliness of New Yorkers, to the camaraderie of Broadway folk. It may be she just wanted a date. However, we did get her address and mailed a check as soon as we got back the next day. She really saved the trip for us, and in the process, contributed to the socio-cultural significance of the TKTS booth. Long may it live.
From James_D, Long Island, NY:
I owe my love of the theater to TKTS. I am a college student and would not be able to enjoy the theater if it weren't for the TKTS booth. Before 1994 I had been to the theater three times in my previous 18 years of life. My parents and I decided to go the TKTS booth to see a show. It was Tommy or Damn Yankees and I got the choice, I chose Tommy because I liked the Who and did not care much for theater. Well to make along story short, eight Tommy performances later and over 25 shows overall, the most recent being Present Laughter, Jekyll & Hyde, and Les Miserables, I am hooked on to theater. If it weren't for TKTS I would not have the love of theater I do. Do not get rid of a good thing that has helped so many like me become the theater fans we are today.
From Rob Bullock, Indianapolis, IN:
I am "Anonymous Indianapolis" who has already sent my feelings and they are on-line. However, I could write a book about the incredible experiences that I have had at TKTS. One of my favorites is St. Patrick's Day week in 1993. A huge snowstorm had hit the city just days before and we arrived on the 17th. The morning of the 18th I got in line early while my friends went for breakfast. I began chatting with a man from England about the Grisham novel he was reading. My friends arrived and we stood talking for an hour in 15 below zero weather, but never felt cold.
The next day we go to get in line and who is there, our friend from England. This didn't happen just twice, but 4 days in one week. It became quite a joke with us. We wound up meeting a great person, sharing coffee, holding spots for bathroom breaks and discussing our common love for the theater. We even went shopping for thermal underwear together since neither had packed any, after all mid March is Spring!
Anyway, if they really start to move towards moving the TKTS booth, I hope everyone will write Mayor Guiliani about their love of this landmark in Mid-town. To me, removing the booth would be like removing The Village - a great place for people of all colors, beliefs and orientations with a common love of life, and theater, would be lost.
From EllardS (EllardS@aol.com), East Stroudsburg, PA:
My favorite "on line" story -- I have been in NYC many times to see plays and have bought my tickets at TKTS many times, but I had never spent a day by myself in the Big Apple (fear of getting lost!) and so I decided I would go by myself to the big city and see a show of my choice (no friends to make me go to the show they wanted to see!!) I just happened to pick the Wednesday matinee day when the Democratic Convention was in town in 1992. Needless to say, it was packed at the booth. The lines were 8 to10 rows deep on both sides and it was the middle of July and hot. But remarkably, I was out of the line in 45 minutes with a great seat to see Alan Alda in "Jake's Women" by my favorite playright, Mr. Neil Simon!!! An added extra bonus was that was also the day of "Broadway on Broadway," where artists from every show on Broadway do a number from their respective shows in the middle of Times Square. It was one of my fondest NYC memories and I didn't get lost once! May TKTS never close its doors!!!
From Anonymous, Indianapolis:
"I certainly hope that TDF and the League can work together. I do find it humorous that the League wants to move this type of an operation inside so people don't have to stand out in the snow, rain or heat. My God, that is the charm of the TDF booth. When I am in NY standing in the elements helps cement the experience. Granted, everyone wants to be comfortable, but I have never heard people complain about standing in the line. Have any of the individuals proposing to move these lines inside every queud up inside? Regulating the heat, fresh air circulation, smoking (or hopefully not), perfumes, etc... Can be a nightmare. If people don't want to stand in line for discount tickets, they can always go to the box office and pay full price. I for one enjoy the TDF line experience and hope they keep it outside!" (3/24/97)
This is hardly a new complaint (I remember hearing it from my GRANDFATHER), but the way NY theater tickets are sold is idiotic. Can you think of any other product that goes out of its way to be harder to buy, that charges a premium for telephone ordering, and lacks anything approaching a central point for purchasing?
True, in my grandfather's day, before computers, this was merely rude and stupid. Now it is rude, stupid, self destructive, and pointless. It would be trivial to tie every hotel and every box office together with a single, centralized purchasing center. You can buy airline tickets to anywhere from anywhere; why not theater tickets? But no...TDF and the League are in a bun fight over discounting.
Great reporting, by the way. It's the first thing I read on a daily basis. (3/21/97)
From Mklboy (Mklboy@aol.com) San Diego,CA:
Quite honestly a trip to NYC would not be the same without the TKTS Booth. I usually make it to New York once a year (sometimes two times). One of my greatest pleasures is standing in line at the TKTS Booth. You get to talk to all the people around you and compare notes and stories about the shows. It wouldn't be the same if the booth were moved inside either. I love standing in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Time Square. I have stood outside in 20 degree weather (and that is a major commitment from someone from San Diego) and it was totally worth it. I would hate to have to stand in line inside some stuffy old building.
Without the TKTS booth I wouldn't have got to see half of the shows that I've seen. In November of 1994, I saw 8 shows in 7 days. All purchased at the TKTS booth. That year it was "Kiss of the Spiderwoman" (with Vanessa Williams, I'd already seen Chita), "Blood Brothers", "Passion", "An Inspector Calls", "Carousel", "Jeffery" and both parts of "Angels in America". I would never have been able to pay full price for most of these shows. (3/21/97)
From John Austin Ambrose:
Hi, I will tell you about a day at TKTS I will never forget. I was in line waiting for tickets to see Indiscretions with Kathleen Turner. I had been in line for about an hour, and as usual I was looking down at the ground kicking my feet on the pavement. I took a quick glance and saw what looked to be a dollar bill. Thinking someone had just dropped it I waited a few seconds to let the person who might have dropped it pick it up. No one seemed to have lost anything, so I reached down and got it. Taking a quick glance I thought this must be a gag. You know one of those fake bill that you unfold and says "God is the only way to Success" or something, but I unfolded it, turned it over, analyzed it to death, and realized I had found a genuine $100 dollar bill. To say the least I had enough money that night to see the show and eat too! (3/20/97)
From Miguel E. Bennasar:
Hi ! I am a theater lover that lives in the Dominican Republic. Each time I book a trip to NY, first thing I do is get the theater listings and get tickets for every night, leaving one or two open to go to TKTS and get tickets there. One of the shows I got to see because was available at TKTS was Blood Brothers. . . one of my favorite shows now! I have seen it twp more times after that. I think is a great oportunity to see a good show at a good price.
Keep TKTS !! (3/20/97)
From Steve Wasloff (email@example.com) Seattle:
Back in the autumn of 1978, I was a freshman drama student at Fordham University, Lincoln Center campus. When I wasn't in class, or working inthe Deli in Macy's Cellar, I was hanging around the TKTS booth in DuffeySquare.
I remember warm evenings of that particular fall. All of the newspaperswere on strike, so talking to people at the booth was a super way to getthe insider dirt on new shows. Most of the people I knew there werepassing out handbills of shows that were available for that performance,or for off-Broadway shows that weren't. And there was always Marie, amatronly woman who plied Gallic charm up and down those twin lines,peddling the restaurant that she and her husband ran.
Because of my "connections", I was fortunate enough to get comps toopening nights of such shows as "Angel", "Platinum", "It's So Nice to beCivilized", and I think even "Sarava!" (whatever became of Tovah?). I evenstood behind Bob Fosse on the escalator at the Minskoff theater for theopening night of "King of Hearts" (he was much shorter than I hadimagined).
In those days, Saturday night tickets to "A Chorus Line" (then thehottest show), were $15, and were rarely available. I must admit I amshocked today when the discount price for shows is closer to $45, andthat the names of the shows, formerly on hand inserted cards, are now onan electronic billboard.But what a great autumn that was. . . (3/19/97)
From Bob Stempin (firstname.lastname@example.org):
Why can't the League of American Theatres and Producers leave well enough a alone. For 23 years this booth has been a traditional and well-known place to purchase discount tickets. If someone passing by didn't know what the crowd was standing there for, they would soon find out. I know for myself, I could not have seen many of the shows I have seen in the past 20 years had it not been for this booth.
Perhaps the League can do something better, at another spot, where avid theatre-goers would soon find out about. The people waiting in these lines where human adds for these shows, long after the curtain went down.
I met someone in line once who composed music (I am a playwright) and before I could get his name to talk about working together, he had gotten his tickets and had to rush to the show. I hoped that someday I would meet him again. I have a wonderful show written on Annie Sullivan just waiting to meet the music half of it. . . again. (3/19/97)
From Libbe S. HaLevy (LibretoDoc@aol.com):
As an out-of-town writer of plays and musicals, I relish my infrequent tripsto NYC as opportunities to catch up on all the shows. As someone withlimited funds, I always turn to the TKTS booth as my first source of seats. Often, what I want to see is not available when I want to see it, and I thenproceed to the various box offices to nab a balcony ticket. But always myfirst stop is TKTS.
I find the wait in line to be enjoyable, because I'm with other theatrelovers willing to brave the lines, the weather, the insecurity of even beingable to see our first, or third, or even seventh choice. I've met teenagersso in love with the theatre they want to write plays, not screenplays, andretirees who share their favorite stories of great theatre performances ofthe past. Even if I have a ticket and am just scooting past the line, itmakes me smile, to see theatre so alive and well and DESIRED by such massesof people.
If it ain't broke, don't even think about fixing it. TKTS serves theaudience that buys the tickets; the producers who would have empty seats wereit not for the opportunity to turn your seats of dross into bargain-seekersgold; and the entire theatre community by funneling money back into itsroots, building audiences, inspiring future theatre artists, and spreadingits money around where it can do a lot of good. More profits for producers? Find other ways to shave the bottom line. The person who falls in lovewith theatre because s/he was able to see so much of it at bargain prices isthe same person who will pop for top dollar seats when s/he has the money todo so. Those who can't afford theatre now won't ever fall in love with it. Don't kill your future with today's greed. Leave TKTS alone. (3/19/97)
I'd like to say that the Broadway producers contemplating trashing the TKTS booth should all be taken out for brain transplants. The TKTS booth has single-handedly saved Broadway during a period of extraordinarily rising ticket prices. I know if I had to face these prices now when I was a college student in the mid-70's, I would never be hooked on the theater the way I am now.
Last Thanksgiving, when I was in New York, I saw 5 shows in 4 days, all but one from the TKTS booth. I would drastically cut that number if these so-called businessmen get their way.
My favorite thing about the TKTS booth around the Thanksgiving holiday was that the people selling the tickets were able to caution me about Frank Langella's absence from Present Laughter. Their help permitted me to see Frank Langella's performance after he recovered from his illness. (3/18/97)
From MDCTheatre (MDCTheatre@aol.com):
I have only used TKTS once... I was in the city and decided to see a matinee of Vic/Vic... I had already seen it and just wanted to see Rachel York again. (That girl has it... She IS FUNNY!). At the booth they informed me that Ms. Andrews was ou, but I did not care! My seats were fine and enjoyed the understudy greatly!
Hearing that TKTS may close leaves me to think... Could I rent it as a loft?! (3/18/97)