Are you a Shakespeare fan who might not have the funds available to see a show at the Shakespeare Theatre Company, or maybe just haven’t had something to push you in the right direction?
Well, STC’s annual Free For All might be just right for you. The Washington tradition has the theatre offering free performances of a Bard’s classic to the general public each day from Sept. 1 to Sept. 13. Over the years, plays such as The Merry Wives of Windsor, Twelfth Night and The Winter’s Tale have been performed and this year marks the return of A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream.
“I believe we do the best Shakespeare productions there are. I also believe Shakespeare is best heard and not just read,” says Joy Johnson, director of audience services for the Shakespeare Theatre Company. “Not everyone can afford to attend our performances. Free For All is the perfect way to get in to see a world-class production and hear Shakespeare’s poetry spoken by artists who understand how his language works.”
Sidney Harman Hall seats 769 and all tickets for each show will be given away every night. Tickets for the Free For All can obtained through three avenues: the lottery, the ticket line or joining Friends of Free For All.
“The lottery is for those people who have a bit of leeway in their availability,” Johnson continued. “Folks can enter the lottery on our website, from 12:01 a.m. up to 8 p.m. the day prior to the performance they’d like to see.”
For example, if someone wants tickets for Thursday’s performance, they should enter on Wednesday up until 8 p.m. Matinees are two days prior, so for the Saturday matinee, someone would enter Thursday by 8 p.m.
All entrants are notified by the email address they registered with by midnight after the lottery closes.
If you don’t want to try your luck on the web, then there’s the line at the theatre itself.
“We release a minimum of 100 tickets to the ticket line two hours before curtain,” Johnson says. “The line usually starts forming early and we have volunteers who interact with the folks waiting in line. We have a fun public art project so those waiting can participate in as well as games and prizes.”
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM
(Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Free for All)
September 1 – 13
Shakespeare Theatre Company
Sydney Harman Hall
610 F Street NW
Washington, DC 20004
Tuesdays thru Sundays
How to get free tickets
Johnson says that over the years, many theatre lovers have become friends and there’s even been some love connections made.
“There are very few restrictions, the only one being each person can get two tickets. If you want to bring four people, two need to win the lottery or two people need to stand in the line,” Johnson says. “You can only enter the lottery once per day, but you can enter every day.”
That means if you are lucky, conceivably you could get tickets to all 16 shows. Johnson says it’s not out of the question that people can win on back to back nights or even 3-4 days in a row.
“STC has always had a ticket line for FFA, which started back in the Carter Barron Amphitheater days, with tickets being given out at the Lansburgh Theatre, the Washington Post building and at the Carter Barron box office,” Johnson says. “When we moved to the smaller Sidney Harman Hall, we extended the performances from 12 to 16. We launched the lottery system a few years ago to solve what had long been an issue of some patrons not being able to get Free For All tickets since they couldn’t leave work early enough to get in line. The lottery is very effective in that it gives more than the single-line option to get tickets.”
Johnson notes the best tip to get tickets is to join the line early and if you don’t receive tickets after they get released, definitely get a standby number and come back 15 minutes before the show starts.
“We always have tickets turned back in to us, and we fill every available seat before the show starts,” she says. “Be patient while the staff locates available seats. The most popular shows are the last weekend, particularly Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. If you don’t get in at that particular performance, come back.”
Finally, if you want to ensure you get tickets, anyone can join the Friends of Free For All, the membership arm of the FFA. Gifts starting at $200 allow Friends to secure reserved seating in advance, receive program recognition and access our Patrons Lounge which includes complimentary beverages and snacks.
With the Free For All, Shakespeare Theatre Company Artistic Director Michael Kahn has broken down almost every barrier to experiencing Shakespeare and given the Free For All to Washington as a thank you for supporting STC and embracing its work.
To enter the online lottery, visit https://www.shakespearetheatre.org/account/ffa_lottery_login.aspx.