There's a misconception that live theatre's way pricier than film. Don't believe it. Play your cards right and you can score tix for the price of a bag of popcorn - or a DVD rental. And remember to check out NOW for tons of giveaways. Can't get much cheaper than free.
Like Times Square's half-price ticket booth, Yonge-Dundas Square's T.O. Tix sells half-price same-day tickets to pretty much every play, dance show and opera in town, as well as some stand-up comedy shows. Keep in mind that the hottest shows might not be available, and lineups can start well before the noon opening Tuesday through Saturday (Sunday and Monday tickets go on sale Saturday). Phone 416-536-6468 ext 40 for daily updates of shows.
One hand in your pocket
If half-price tix are too rich for you, then how about pay-what-you-can (pwyc) performances? Sunday's the bargain day for theatres like Buddies in Bad Times (12 Alexander, 416-975-8555), Factory (125 Bathurst, 416-504-9971), Tarragon (30 Bridgman, 416-531-1827) and Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson, 416-504-7529), where matinee performances (usually 2 or 2:30 pm) go pwyc. No one will turn up their nose if you throw in $5 or $10. CanStage 's Bluma Appel (27 Front East) and Berkeley Street theatres (26 Berkeley, 416-368-3110) go pwyc on Monday nights and offer limited same-day rush tickets Tuesday to Saturday. Soulpepper 's deal is even sweeter. If available, $18 unsold rush tickets go on sale 15 minutes before curtain - and if you're 21 or younger you pay a mere $5. Note to single people: pwyc/rush lines are a great place to meet others.
Not-for-profit theatre's one thing, but what about the so-called highbrow performing arts? The National Ballet (145 Queen West, 416-345-9595) sells rush tickets on the day of performance (on sale at 11 am), while the Canadian Opera Company 's terrific 18to29: Opera For A New Age program gets you tickets for $18 or $29 if you're 29 or younger (details at 416-363-6671).
Laugh and learn
If you want to catch tomorrow's comic superstars today for next to nothing, check out the city's free or pwyc nights. The sure thing is Monday's legendary pwyc ALT.COMedy Lounge at the Rivoli (332 Queen West, 416-596-1908), a star-studded room that regularly showcases the city's best and has lured guests like Janeane Garofalo and Ellen DeGeneres. The Tuesday-night SketchComedy Lounge at the same venue is more uneven, but you can't beat the pwyc price. Jo-Anna Downey hosts two of the best open mics, Wednesday night's Open Mic Night at Spirits Bar & Grill (642 Church, 416-967-0001) and Thursday's Standing On The Danforth at the Olde Eton House (710 Danforth, 416-466-6161). Expect pros and amateurs. David Shore 's bi-weekly interview-based pwyc improv show Monkey Toast (every other Sunday at the Drake , www.monkeytoast.com) is among the best bargains in town. Two bucks gets you into Toonie Tuesdays Amateur Night at Yuk Yuk's Downtown (224 Richmond West, 416-967-6425). If you're into improv, don't miss Saturday's free Bad Dog Sessions at the home of improv, Bad Dog Theatre (138 Danforth, 416-491-3115). And Second City 's (51 Mercer, 416-343-0011) free Saturday late-night improv set, right after the Mainstage Show at around 12:15 am, often draws cool guests who want to flex their improv muscles.