Theater in D.C.

There is no shortage of things to see and places to go in Washington D.C. and that applies to theaters as well. D.C. has a vibrant and active theater community that offers something for everyone. You’ve got the grandeur of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the irreverence of the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. As much as I enjoy and still have every intent of traveling to New York City to see Broadway shows there is quality theater, or as some prefer “theatre,” to be found locally. One thing that does distinguish theater in DC from what you’ll find on Broadway or other commercial venues is that nearly all the theaters that produce shows in DC are not for profit entities. There are any number of producers that would be quick to tell that most theater, commercial or otherwise, is not profitable. But what is nice about the non-profit nature of DC theater is that in many ways it gives local theaters greater leeway to try something experimental and quite a few Broadway shows spend a few years in regional theater fine tuning the production.

I try and get around to as many of the smaller theaters as possible but like evryone the are the four or five I patronize regullarly. For classical theater you can rarely go wrong with the Shakespeare Theatre Company . (FYI anything underlined is a link to that theaters web site) For musical theater really enjoy both Signature Theatre andArena Stage, although both also do plays as well. And there are many, many others.

If, unlike me, you do not want to be on a dozen theaters email rosters there are a couple of options available to you when trying to figure out what’s playing int he DC region. I would love to direct you to the Theatre Section of the Washington Post Online as a good tool for finding interesting theater productions but I generally find that section wanting information and not particularly well organized and mostly limited to reviews. A good resource, if you’re not sure what’s playing and what might be interesting is the theatreWashington web site. This is a spin-off of the Helen Hayes Awards website and provides an organized systems for trying to find a show to see. Their search engine allows you to search by date and by genre to help focus on what you’re particular needs may be. They also post reviews and host theater related events.

For discount tickets I can’t recommend enough. I’ve used it numerous times and you can get tickets for 30-50% off the face value. The catch is, you can’t select you seats, your seats will be assigned by the theater, but you are guaranteed a seat and most DC theaters are of such a size that the location of you seat doesn’t matter too much. Goldstar makes their money off of the handling charges but they use a sliding scale so that if your tickets only $20 you’re not paying an additional $11 in handling fees. If you use Goldstar a lot you might want to join their “Red Velvet” club, which will get you preferred seating and the ability to cancel tickets for a credit for future shows.

There is one other handy ticket tidbit people should be aware of when purchasing tickets. While most theaters will tell you all sales are final, if you end up having an unavoidable conflict, if you call the box office and there are seats available for alternate dates most will let you change your tickets. Some charge a nominal $5 fee to change tickets which is preferable to losing the full price of the ticket. Some theaters may even honor the tickets if you miss the show, again based on seating availability.

Alternate options for discount tickets, if your schedule is flexible, are the same day “rush” tickets. Most theaters will release these tickets a couple of hours before the showtime and you have to physically come to the box office. Your best bet for rush tickets are weeknights, that’s when shows are less likely to sell out. The cost and availability varies from venue to venue a call ahead to the theater is necessary.


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