With summer coming to an end, Utah’s theater, music and dance companies and their season ticket holders are looking forward to opening nights.
But for those interested in joining those audiences for the first time — or ready to look beyond their favorites — the Utah Cultural Alliance has a deal for you.
Last year’s Free Night of Theater — a free giveaway of hundreds of tickets — is now the Free Night of Art. The list of arts organizations that have donated tickets and are participating has expanded to dance, music, museums, workshops, a haunted house and more.
The contest is one of several ways Utah arts groups are trying to get new audiences into their seats.
Free Night of Art
Enter to win free tickets beginning Sunday, Sept. 1, at NowPlayingUtah.com. All performances will be in October.
“By expanding it to Free Night of Arts this year, we’re hoping that we’ll get people not only checking out theater, but also going to museums, the opera, ballet and other art forms,” said Kylie Howard, director of operations for NowPlayingUtah.com, which is operated by UCA.
Free Night of Theater has proven popular, with thousands of people vying for hundreds of tickets. “We had a number of people who commented that they really enjoyed the opportunity to try things out,” Howard said.
Reactions from ticket winners include:
• “Loved the opportunity to experience different theater productions throughout the area. It’s an awesome way to learn about theaters I didn’t know about.”
• “Thank you. I took my special needs daughter and she loved it.”
• “It’s a fantastic program that allows so many people to get more involved in the Utah cultural scene.”
Seeing the response to free theater tickets, other arts groups quickly jumped on board, Howard said.
The emphasis is on new experiences. If you have season tickets to, say, the Utah Opera, chances are you’re not going to win free tickets to the Utah Opera. And the system keeps track of who has won tickets to what in the past.
“The whole idea of this is that we’re prioritizing new users who haven’t won before, and also prioritizing them going to new theaters or other venues,” Howard said.
So, for example, if 200 people go after tickets to the Utah Opera, the opera will check the list to see if any of those people have attended productions in the last year — and the tickets will go to people who have not. And if you won tickets to, say, Hale Center Theatre last year, you’re probably not going to win more this year.
“We have so many art organizations. We want people to check out things they haven’t tried before,” Howard said.
More than 520 tickets are committed — so more than 260 people will each win a pair of tickets.
How to win: Enter at freenight.nowplayingutah.com from Sept. 1 through 15. You have to create (or return to) a profile that includes your name, email address and phone number, then pick two events you’d like to attend. You can return to change your choices through Sept. 15.
No purchase is required. On Sept. 22, winners will be notified via email.
Discounts for students
You’ll find an array of links that will show you student discounts for everything from chamber music to classical Greek theater, performances by Salt Lake Acting Company to Clever Octopus art supplies.
“Instead of having to go to 20 different places to find out where you can get a discount,” Howard said, “it’s all listed right there.”
Each organization sets its own rules for who can purchase student discounts and what those discounts are. Some offer internships or credit toward tickets for volunteering.
It’s not exactly the TKTS booth on Broadway, but NowPlayingUtah.com does have its own version of last-minute discount tickets. And they’re not just restricted to students.
On the homepage, click on “Discounts & Free” and then on “Flash Discounts,” where you may find those last-minute deals.
“It’s a great way for organizations that have extra inventory to sell it at a discounted rate,” Howard said. “You have to pick up these tickets before they’re gone, because they are at such a steeply reduced rate.”
You can sign up for NowPlayingUtah.com email alerts and receive notifications of flash sales.
And, of course, if you click on “Free” under “Discounts & Free,” you’ll find a listing of events that are — you guessed it! — free.
A less intimidating approach
Many performing arts groups offer performances tailored for audiences who want a shorter presentation, or a quieter environment, or less pressure to sit still.
On Saturday, Sept. 28, at 1 p.m., the company will offer a condensed, one-hour performance of its show “Traces.” The matinee has a family-friendly ticket price of $8 a ticket.
“It’s for anybody who’s maybe new to the performing arts experience,” said Tori Duhaime, Ririe-Woodbury’s marketing director. “It’s really meant to make the experience more comfortable.”
“Traces” runs Sept. 26-28 at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center in Salt Lake City.
Find similar offerings on organizations’ websites. Utah Symphony | Utah Opera schedules shortened Access to Music performances for children with special needs and their families; there are more than 2,000 families and organizations on its invitation list.
After more than 1,000 people attended a January 2018 Access to Music concert, many sent their thanks, the Utah Symphony | Utah Opera later told Salt Lake County funding officials.
“Thank you so much for providing an event where we could just enjoy the beauty of music without worrying about how our child’s behavior would impact the ability of others to enjoy the evening,” one parent wrote. “It was so nice to feel that we were not just tolerated, but welcome.”
Many groups offer lower-cost packages now or deals as the season goes on.
For example, “rush tickets” are not a chance to hear Canada’s greatest rock band, but an old stage tradition of selling seats to theatrical performances just before the curtain rises.
Pioneer Theatre Company has turned that tradition into a season-length opportunity, with its Rush Pass. For $150, a pass holder can get into any PTC performance one hour before curtain, if there’s a seat available.
There’s no limit on how many times a pass holder can get into a show, and passes are not transferable.
Pioneer Theatre starts its season on Sept. 20 with the Broadway-bound musical “Cagney.”
WHO’S OFFERING FREE TICKETS?
Enter to win Free Night of Art tickets for these October events, at NowPlayingUtah.com starting Sept. 1.
• Ballet West: “Balanchine’s Ballets Russes,” Oct. 25, 26, 31
• CenterPoint Legacy Theatre: “Hunchback of Notre Dame,” Oct. 1, 2, 8, 9
• Draper Historic Theatre: “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” Oct. 4, 5, 7, 11, 12, 14, 18, 19
• Hale Centre Theatre: “Phantom,” Oct. 29; “The Addams Family,” Oct. 15; “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” Oct. 22
• Hopebox Theatre: “Freaky Friday,” Oct. 4
• Nightmare on 13th Haunted House: Admission passes, Oct. 12
• NOVA Chamber Music: “Ligeti and Brahms,” Oct. 13
• Odyssey Dance Theatre: “Thriller,” Oct. 14 & 15
• On Pitch Performing Arts Center: “Into the Woods,” Oct. 4-19
• Peery’s Egyptian Theatre: “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” Oct. 25-26
• Pioneer Theatre Company: “Cagney,” Oct. 1-3; “The Lifespan of a Fact ,” Oct. 31
• Repertory Dance Theatre: “Inside Outside,” Oct. 3
• SALT Contemporary Dance: “PAN St. George,” Oct. 12
• SCERA: “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” Oct. 2; “Junie B. Jones: The Musical,” Oct. 14
• The Empress Theatre: “Disaster! The Musical,” Oct. 7-14
• The Grand Theatre Company: “Curtains,” Oct. 3-26
• The Noorda Center for the Performing Arts: “The Kobie Watkis Grouptet,” Oct. 5; Audra McDonald in Concert, Oct. 7; “Anne of Green Gables,” Oct. 11; “Sweeney Todd,” Oct. 25, 26; “Pillars: UVU Wind Symphony,” Oct. 9; Fall Choral Showcase,” Oct. 4; “Urinetown: The Musical,” Oct. 5; “Classical Giants: Symphony Orchestra,” Oct. 15
• Utah Museum of Contemporary Art: Admission passes for October
• Utah Museum of Fine Art: Admission passes for October
• Utah Opera: “La Traviata by Verdi,” Oct. 16
• Wasatch Contemporary Dance Company: Adult dance workshops, Oct. 26