A scene from The Book of Mormon (© Joan Marcus)
One of the perks of living in New York City as a student is the access to discounted theater tickets for the college student budget. Most Broadway shows offer rush tickets between $25 and $35, and there are a plethora of ways to get student tickets Off-Broadway. The great thing about Broadway shows is that they often generously set aside rush and lottery tickets to be sold day of, to an otherwise sold out show. For example, even when The Book of Mormon is sold out months in advance, they offer a lottery every night for seats in the front rows and the boxes in the theater for $32. It is often very crowded, so an additional option for scoring tickets is to wait in the standing room line. This is much like a standard rush ticket line, meaning that you get there early in the day and wait. I did this for a Saturday matinee in November, getting there around 7am and waiting outside the theater until the standing room tickets were sold for $27 one hour prior to curtain. They are available whenever the show is sold out (which is, right now, all the time) but if you go to a matinee you don't have to wait the entire day.
Wicked opens its lottery two and a half hours prior to curtain, with 25 seats being sold for $26.50 each. The How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying rush offers $30 tickets when the box office opens. You will have to get there early to line up to make sure you get a ticket; the first people in line often get the front row. (This was the policy in the fall when Daniel Radcliffe was in the show, I'm not sure if this will change once Nick Jonas starts this week.)
In general, I would say the best way to check out a show's rush policy is its official website (they usually list it in the tickets section) or go to the box office and ask. Often, rush tickets are "subject to availability" meaning that they don't set aside a certain number of tickets for rush, so if the show is sold out, there may not be any rush tickets available. However, January and February is a slow time for New York theater and tickets in these months are generally easier to get. I remember fondly getting last minute "snow day" tickets to the revival of Hair during the big snowstorms of 2010 -- $40 for orchestra seats!
Additional options include Lincoln Center's LincTix program and Roundabout's HipTix. If you are between the ages of 21 and 35 you are eligible for $30 tickets to War Horse and Other Desert Cities. Roundabout has a wider eligibility, starting at 18 through 35 and all tickets are $20.
Many theaters and ticket agencies offer student memberships. What this means is that you pay a flat rate to join their program, and then you are offered discounted tickets. Some policies are as follows:
Manhattan Theater Club has a free program which offers $30 tickets to patrons under 30. MCC offers ticket discounts for young people without a membership, with $20 student rush and $20 advance tickets for people under 30. New York Theatre Workshop offers "CheapTix Sundays", a limited number of $20 tickets for Sunday evening performances, and student tickets in advance for $25. Details here Playwrights Horizons offers a 30 & Under membership with a $20 upfront fee, or a Student Membership with a $10 upfront fee Details here The Public Theater does not offer memberships at a student rate, their membership flat fee is $55, but they often offer student discounted tickets in advance, and rush tickets for $20. I would recommend following them on twitter to keep updated on their discounts Rattlestick Playwrights Theater offers a $25 under-30 membership, or a $10 student membership with discounted ticket prices. The Vineyard Theater offers a $35 Under-30 membership which gives you access to $15 member tickets for their productions The Signature Theater initiative (which this season includes Blood Knot, Hurt Village, and The Lady from Dubuque) offers all tickets for $25 during a show's initial run (This does not apply to extensions). Second Stage offers $18 student rush tickets or $30 "Youth Advance" tickets for ages 30 and under. TheaterMania's Gold Club offers a student rate at 40% of the yearly rate for membership for deeply discounted tickets on Broadway and Off-Broadway productions.
The New York theater community definitely makes its shows available to college students who are short on cash. If you're fortunate enough to be living and learning here, experiment, and use your discount to check out a play you might not normally see. The best theater education I've gotten is from seeing lots of shows!