At Firehouse Theatre , Sundays are the traditional pay-what-you-will day. One rule: You can't reserve your tickets in advance. Come on Sunday, says volunteer coordinator Steven Harris, and tell the ticket-taker, "I want to buy a $5 ticket," or whatever ticket price you can afford. Harris says Sunday business is steady, particularly among VCU students with limited budgets and expansive appetites for art.
Barksdale Theatre relies on the honor system. Marketing associate Billy Christopher says patrons can write a letter to Bruce Miller, the theater's artistic director, pleading their case for lower-priced tickets. But the more common way to see a show without spending a lot is to get "rush tickets" for $15. Available for shows at Hanover Tavern and Willow Lawn, the tickets are released the day of the show, but you can call ahead to get them. Call the box office the morning of the show, and pick up your tickets half an hour before the curtain is raised, Christopher says. Wednesdays and Thursdays are safe bets, he adds.
Stage 1 Theatre Co. , which stages American musicals, is in its first season. "We're trying to compete with the big kids," says artistic director Chase Kniffen. Stage 1 offers pay-what-you-will seats on the first Friday performance of a show — its new musical, Summer of '42, will open June 19. On other days, the troupe has rush tickets for $10. Kniffen says the theater is planning to refine the process, but for now, you must come to the theater between 90 and 30 minutes before the show to claim rush tickets, although you can call the box office earlier in the day.
Theatre IV , the venerable children's theater affiliated with Barksdale, has a variety of cost-cutting measures. A brochure you can request on the theater's Web site has a discount of $2 for kids' tickets and $5 for adult admission; Ukrop's VIP cardholders receive a $3 discount. The real deal, though, is the theater's "stimulus package": $20 tickets for the corner seats in rows O, M, N, L and K on the orchestra level, which you can reserve. Of course, box office staffer Alex Whiteway says, there are no bad seats at Theatre IV.