A Few Tips For Seeing Theater on the Cheap In Dallas

Shakespeare in the Bar is free and fun.
Shakespeare in the Bar is free and fun.
Scott Wayne McDaniel

Even if you’re really, really interested in the theater, regularly purchasing tickets to shows can knock a huge hole in your entertainment budget, which should generally be reserved for purchasing copious amounts of alcohol. Still, you should make it a priority to see at least a few shows a month, even if you’re on a pretty tight budget. Studies show that live theater is beneficial to both your brain and ability to empathize with others, two things that we all agree could use a little work.

Fortunately, many of Dallas’ theater companies do everything they can to make their art accessible to as many people as possible, regardless of income or tax bracket. These free and cheap performances may require a little digging, but they’re totally worth it. Here are some quick starter ideas for finding free and cheap theater in Dallas if you’re interested in broadening your horizons, and catching some of Dallas’ best artists and playwrights without spending your rent money.

Pay-What-You-Can Performances
At The Dallas Theater Center, Kitchen Dog Theater and Second Thought Theatre you can pay as little as $1 on select nights to see the theater’s newest and most interesting shows. Pay-what-you-can tickets are generally available four days before the actual PWYC performance, and you’ll have to order your tickets online. If any tickets are unsold, you can purchase them on a walk-up basis at the box office. Not all shows or theaters have PWYC performances, and at DTC these performances are previews for the official run of the show. You might think that you’re plunking down a few bucks for a dress rehearsal, but you’d be surprised at the the quality of these performances. At other companies, these are usually industry nights, which means they fall on a Monday or a Wednesday and the audience will be filled with actors who are in other shows across town. Both Second Thought and Ochre House have shows several, if not all, Monday nights during the run of their shows. 

Look for the Black Box Theaters
Black box theaters are home to experimental, stripped-down theater, and can be a great way to check out interesting performances before they make their way to the main stage. Best of all, the majority of these performances are donation based, or free. In Denton, the PONTBank Black Box Theatre showcases some of Little D’s best playwrights and actors, many of whom are studying their craft just down the street at the University of North Texas. Addison and Frisco also have their own black box theaters, each home to a unique slate of performances each month.

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For example, Cara Mia Theatre
This eclectic theater company focuses on plays that exemplify all facets of the Latino experience, and they produce some of the edgiest theater in Dallas. The company’s performances, like the current exploratory theater series on immigration topics, cost at most $10, and often offer free admission. The settings are sometimes unconventional, like a branch of the Dallas Public Library, but you’re always guaranteed to enjoy a diverse experience and alternative viewpoints at a Cara Mia Theatre performance.

Catch A Theater Festival
For a big dose of theater all in a few weeks, a theater festival can be an incredibly economical way to pack in several plays for an incredibly low price. WaterTower Theatre’s Out Of The Loop Fringe Festival in April is widely regarded as one of the best theater festivals in Texas, and single performance tickets will only set you back $10. At TeCo Theatrical Production in September, the PlayPride LGBT theater showcase costs just $15 for six one-act plays in one day. At the Bath House Cultural Center in July, catch the Festival of Independent Theatres where single tickets are just $18. You’ll have to check back for these festivals (our weekly events listings are a good place to start), but once you’ve been to your first, you’ll be hooked.

Look Outside of the Theater for Theater 
Theater doesn’t necessarily have to take place in a stuffy, silent room with uncomfortable chairs. The Wild Detectives, a Bishop Arts bookstore, coffee shop and bar, has occasionally played host to Shakespeare At The Bar, “barely rehearsed” performances of some of the Bard’s best works accompanied by copious amounts of booze. Performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream are planned for June and July. Plus, there's a new upstart company called House Party Theatre that's performing shows in unconventional locations like True West at That That Gallery, or whatever show they do next in your backyard if you'll let them. Shakespeare Dallas' annual Shakespeare In the Park (June 24-28 this year) performances are an open-air no-brainer — the suggested donation is only $10.


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