Many parents are probably already aware of the plethora of quality children’s theater in the Washington, D.C. area. Imagination Stage, The Puppet Co. and Adventure Theatre immediately come to mind. But what are your options when you want to take the kids to a grown-up but family-friendly show or your high schoolers have the theater bug and want to see shows with friends?
Theater tickets are expensive and a family of four can easily spend $400 for an evening out. Fortunately, our area is rich in theaters that are actively encouraging future theater lovers. For example, recently my 16 year-old daughter and her best friend saw Angels in America for a mere $20 at Round House Theatre.
Of all the theaters I researched, Round House Theatre and the Shakespeare Theatre are the most proactive in courting teenagers. At Round House every show has one Teen Night, usually a Friday. Your teenager gets pizza, drinks, desserts and a ticket to the show. The experience is enhanced by a pre-show talk and sometimes an after show activity like a backstage tour. As of January, 2018, Round House Theatre has a new Free Play program. It’s free to see a show for anyone from 13 to college.
Free – no tricks! For Angels in America, the theater’s dramaturge gave a talk about the 1980s and AIDs, which gave context to the play. At another show, my daughter heard from one of the actors. In addition, Round House Theatre has a program called ” Play it Forward,” which offers free theater tickets to every show to high school students. If you want to accompany your teenager, up to two family members get a $5 discount off regularly priced tickets. High school students must bring their i.d. to the box office when picking up tickets. To reserve tickets, call 240.644.1100 or go online.
Unfortunately, my daughter was too late to sign up for this year’s Shakespeare Theatre’s Teen Critic program. Teenagers who apply and get accepted receive a press packet, tickets to every show, writing workshops, and the opportunity to meet with professional theater critics and dramaturges.
Teens write reviews of each show, receive professional critiques, and publish reviews in their school paper. Excerpts of the reviews may also be posted on the Shakespeare Theatre website. Applications for the program will be available on the website in mid-April for next fall. Write to [email protected] if you want more information. The Shakespeare Theatre also has acting classes for 12 to 18 year-olds every Saturday from 10:30-12:30 at Shakespeare Theatre Rehearsal Studios, located at 507 or 516 Eighth Street SE. Each workshop is $30 and should be reserved on the website in advance.
Shakespeare Theatre has a number of discounts to make shows more affordable. $25 individual tickets are available for people under 35 (use code 17UNDER35) or $22 per ticket for a season pass (use code SEASONU35). In addition, $25 unsold seats are offered for every show two hours before the curtain. A lottery called “Free Will” gives away 1,000 tickets to the entire season. Free Will tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis by calling anytime after Monday at noon.
The annual, summer Shakespeare Free For All is a great way to introduce kids five and up to the Bard’s works. Currently, Shakespeare Theatre has family four packs for $40 a ticket (use promo code FAMILY) to the musical A Secret Garden during Family Week December 11 to 18, 2016. During this week, you can also get free tickets to a number of special activities like a backstage tour or a sing-a-long.
Millennium Stage in the Grand Foyer of the Kennedy Center presents free shows of every kind at 6 p.m. daily, no reservations required. Just remember that although the show may be free, parking is expensive.
Many theaters offer discounts or rush tickets. Recently, I discovered that box office operators are extremely knowledgeable and happy to help you get the best price. Instead of buying tickets online, call and ask about obstructed view and rush tickets and discounts for seniors, veterans, students, kids, families, and people 35 and under. The Next Stop Theatre in Herndon offers middle and high school students rush seat tickets at curtain time for $5 cash only at the door.
Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia offers discounts that include $25 tickets for full-time students in tiers 2 and 3 code STU25, and $22 Tuesdays for two seats code TUES 22. They also offer family 4-packs for $150 and these must be purchased by phone (703-820-9771). Two of the four seats must include children between the ages of 6 and 17. For all of these, proof of age is required.
Olney Theatre in Maryland, which prides itself on family friendly shows like Mary Poppins, has student rush tickets for $20 for anyone with a student i.d. Historic Ford’s Theatre gives out free tickets to the first preview of each show by lottery. Discounted tickets are also available for obstructed view seats and for patrons 35 and younger (use promo code UNDER35).
Arena Stage has three great deals. A family pack of four tickets (kids 5-17) is $125; student tickets are 35% off regular price; and there is Pay Your Age for patrons under 30 (ages 5 and up). My husband and I recently called the Arena box office at 6 p.m. on a Saturday night and found out that there were 150 seats available. With that knowledge, we knew that if we arrived a half hour before curtain time that half price tickets were a sure bet. Pick which deal works best for you.
The National Theatre has a lottery two hours before every show, where winners receive tickets for $25 each. To receive other National Theater special offers sign up for their mailing list online. The National Theatre is hosting a special Girl Scout Night on December 18, 2016 for Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical with pricing between $33 and $55 for select seats. Girl scouts will receive a souvenir patch.
Our family has never missed an ArtSpeak!, a free program, sponsored by Shugoll Research, to excite older elementary to high school students about theater. Four times a year, musical theater performers come to a local high school, sing songs, talk about their careers, answer questions and sign autographs for around two hours. Past artists have included Brian d’Arcy James, Alice Ripley, and Sierra Boggess.
The next program will be married couple Santino and Jessica Fontana at Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, Maryland on Thursday, November 17. Both of them appeared in Cinderella on Broadway. He was the voice of Hans in the movie Frozen. There are always giveaways of CDs and other prizes for students. Adults are welcome but cannot ask questions or win prizes.
Finally, community theaters such as Rockville Little Theatre, Northern Virginia Players, Rockville Musical Theatre, Vienna Theatre Company and Kensington Arts Theatre plus middle school and high school productions provide an affordable and convenient way to see straight plays and musicals while at the same time supporting local performers