T.O. Tix at Yonge-Dundas Square (1 Dundas East), is open Tuesday-Saturday from noon to 7:30 pm. 416-536-6468 ext 40 for available shows. Rating: NNNNN
Before I began reviewing plays full-time, I used to buy half-priced tickets at T.O. Tix. At that time it was called Five Star Tickets and was located in a modest white kiosk at the southwest corner of Dundas and Yonge, just outside the Eaton Centre. For a culture vulture high school student from the burbs, it was a doorway to different worlds. What would it be today? A play? An opera?
I remember scanning the posters on the outside of the booth, amazed that so much theatre I'd never heard about happened in the city.
Forget Phantom and Les Miz.
I lucked out and got tickets to see both parts of CanStage's Angels In America in a single exhausting Saturday.
I remember seeing a Lanford Wilson play at the Bluma, then called the St. Lawrence Centre, and a Judith Thompson play at the Tarragon.
I read a rave review in this paper of John Mighton's Possible Worlds, bought a half-price ticket the same day and saw the show that night.
Unlike Sunday pay-what-you-can performances or student rush tickets, you could drop by the ticket kiosk pretty much any time of the day, and if tickets were available you could buy them for little more than the cost of a movie.
Over the years, the booth migrated down Yonge, then entered the Eaton Centre proper to move from space to space and confuse regular customers.
Now it's located in Yonge-Dundas Square, a few metres from where I first spotted Five Star Tickets.
It's been there over a year. Ironically, a few months ago a sign finally went up announcing its presence.
A little late. Last week, the Toronto Theatre Alliance, the organization that runs T.O. Tix, announced that the booth might close.
"This is a crisis," says new executive director Jacoba Knaapen.
This week kicks off the T.O. Tix Awareness Campaign, which includes postering and distributions of flyers, initiatives Knaapen calls "long overdue."
Compared to New York's half-price ticket booth near Times Square, the T.O. Tix booth is positively discreet.
T.O. Tix manager Michael Wiley admits the booth's had some problems with visibility.
"People have said they couldn't find us before and have only now seen the sign," he says. "Moving all those times didn't help."
He points out that there's still no sign facing Dundas.
On a recent snowy Friday afternoon, I spotted one or two people at the booth, which is also a Ticketmaster and Ticket King outlet.
The list of discounted shows displayed on an inside board - Knaapen's hoping for a pixelboard in the future - includes mid-sized shows like Judith Thompson's Capture Me at the Tarragon, Michael O'Brien's Restitution at the Factory and smaller shows like Julian Doucet's Phae at the Factory Studio and Eric Woolfe's Dear Boss at Artword.
Missing are the Mirvish shows, both the big musicals and their hit, Copenhagen, now on at the Winter Garden.
"I'm working on getting them onboard," explains Knaapen. "It's been a contentious issue for many years."
She points out that the Mirvishes have always been incredibly supportive of the Dora Mavor Moore Awards, which are administered by the TTA.
But Knaapen also realizes that most theatre in the city is produced by independents. She and the TTA are determined to support them.
"Their work fills most of our stages," she says, "and yet their profile is minimal."