Rushing to the Theatre: A Guide to Student Rush, Lottery and Standing-Room-Only Tickets

By Carey Purcell
July 20, 2013

Playbill.com offers a guide of tips and tricks to better your chances of buying student rush tickets or winning lottery tickets to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows.



"Money makes the world go round" both onstage and off. Seeing a Broadway show can seem like a lofty or even impossible goal to some, due to ticket prices, but the theatre community offers some great ways to snag affordable tickets to the hottest shows in town.

The tradition of rush tickets began in 1996 when Rent sold all seats of the first two rows of the Nederlander Theatre's orchestra section for $20 to whomever could be at the box office in time on the day of the performance. Now tickets cost a little more than $20, but there are still lots of affordable ways to get tickets and be able to buy dinner along with the show. 

For newcomers to the game, here are the differences between the types of tickets. Note that all three categories of tickets usually must be paid for using cash.

Student rush tickets are sold to patrons with a student ID the day of the performance. The location of the seat, and whether patrons can buy one or two tickets with an ID, varies.

Lottery entries are accepted at the box office, and the winners are drawn at random before the performance. Specific times may vary, but entries are usually taken between two and three hours before the curtain and the winner is drawn about 30 minutes after the names are taken.

Standing-room-only (SRO) tickets secure theatregoers a numbered space that is the width of a regular seat and are usually located in the back of the orchestra. SRO tickets are typically sold when the show is sold out. Unless otherwise specified, one SRO ticket is sold per person.

Playbill has published a summary of the rules and regulations of buying rush and standing-room-only (SRO) tickets to Broadway shows, so we talked to some theatre fans and experts about working the lottery and SRO lines and put together a guide of how to ensure theatregoers have a stress-free experience in line  — and perhaps better your chances of winning the tickets as well.

Do Your Homework 

If you're planning on rushing when friends or family are in town and they are dead-set on seeing a star, call the ticket sellers or check the ticket seller's website before your guests arrive and ask if any of the lead performers are scheduled to be on vacation during that time.

Look on the theatre's website to see if you need to have one or two student ID cards to purchase student rush tickets. Some theatres will sell two tickets per ID, but others let people buy only one.

Timing is Everything

Find out what time box offices are open for business and plan on getting there at least 30 minutes before the show. If the show is very popular, got rave reviews or won several Tony Awards, you should get there about two hours in advance.

If you can plan ahead even further, keep in mind that you have better chances of seeing a show before it is reviewed. Find out when the previews begin and try to see one of those performances. Less people will be lining up before the critics publish their reviews, and the less people in line, the better your chances.

Divide and Conquer

If you and a friend want to see a show together, find two different shows that give two tickets per ID and attempt securing tickets from each. If one of you tries for one lottery and one of you enters the other, you have double the chances of seeing a show. 

If you're flying solo that day or night, look for other singles in the crowd and pair up with them. This will also double your chances of winning. 

What to Bring

Your student ID card is a must if you're going to try for student rush tickets. Whatever you do, don't forget that.

Bring sustenance. Depending on what show you want to see, you might be in line for a while. Make sure you bring enough food and drink to sustain you until the office opens.

Remember chairs, towels or blankets so you can sit down while in line. If you are buying SRO tickets, you don't want to be standing up for hours before the show even begins.

Find Middle Ground

If you're in line for standing-room-only tickets, you don't want to be first in line, but you also don't want to be last. Tickets are given out left to right. First in line is all the way to one side of the theatre, and last in line is at the other side. Try to get in the middle of the line, which will land you in the center of the theatre, with the best view of the stage. 

Have a Backup Plan

There's always a chance you might not get the tickets, so it's smart to have a Plan B. Find out what shows nearby might have tickets available, so you can still see some entertainment. Even if you can't see the show that you got up early for, you could be pleasantly surprised by discovering a new favorite play or musical. 

If waiting until the day of the show is too last minute for you, don't worry. There are plenty of ways to buy affordable tickets in advance as well.

Playwrights Horizons

This Off-Broadway house allows students to buy a membership for $10 and purchase $10 tickets for the rest of the year. To sweeten the deal even further, members can buy a guest ticket for $15 with the membership student ID card.

If you've already graduated, you can opt for the 30 & Under Membership, which costs $20 per year. Members can then purchase a $20 ticket and one guest ticket per production for $30. Members must present valid proof of age when picking up each ticket. Playwrights Horizons also offers HOTtix ($25 rush tix for patrons aged 30 and under) for all productions.

HipTix

Roundabout's low-price ticket program for theatregoers between 18–35 is free to join and gets members $20 tickets to all Roundabout shows, both on and Off-Broadway. All tickets are $20 (plus fees). Members can purchase two tickets for each show, in advance, but their guest will also need to provide proof of age. 

$30 Under 30

Second Stage's program allows patrons under the age of 30 to buy 
$30 advance tickets to any performance at the Off-Broadway performance space.

Linctix

Signing up for Lincoln Center Theater's discount ticket program for 21-35 year olds lets members buy $30 tickets in advance for all theatre productions. This includes shows at the Beaumont Theater, the Newhouse Theater and its Broadway location.

Public Theater

Student Tickets: $25 tickets can be purchased in advance at the box office for every Public Theater performance on sale to the general public. Patrons must have a valid student ID at the time of purchase, and there is a limit of one ticket per ID. Cash only and subject to availability.

TDF

Becoming a member of the Theatre Development Fund permits theatregoers to purchase tickets days, and sometimes weeks, in advance. A one-year membership costs $30 and offers members discounts of up to 70% off the full price. Tickets, which can be purchased through the TDF website, cost $9-45. And, don't forget about the TKTS booths that offer discounted tickets daily.