Cheap Theatre Series – Volunteer to See Shows for Free

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This post is the first in the Cheap Theatre Series. Here I give you creative ideas on how you can see live performances at a low or even no cost. In this post, I’ll share tips about volunteering to see shows.


I’m from Edmonton, Canada. It’s a city that can be overlooked by travellers, which is too bad because there’s more to Edmonton than meets the eye. Like how the local theatre scene here is pretty fantastic. The most prominent theatre event in the city is The Edmonton International Fringe Festival. It occurs every August, and it’s the second-largest Fringe Festival in the world. At the 2013 Fringe Festival, I saw 15 different live shows for only $2.50 (for all the shows). Usually seeing that many shows would cost over $200. How did I manage to see so many shows for such a low price? I volunteered.

Being a Volunteer

Every year that I can I’ll go to the Fringe, and see a few shows. I wanted to volunteer at The Fringe for a long time, and I got to do that last year. During The Fringe, I worked at the box office selling tickets. The Fringe has its volunteer program organized quite well. Shifts are between 4 and 6 hours long. Volunteers are only required to work three or four times during the 10-day festival (plus a mandatory orientation shift before the festival starts). The Fringe provides volunteers with food, and non-alcoholic drinks during their shifts. There is always someone around to help new volunteers and answer questions.

Outdoor show at the 2013 Edmonton International Fringe Festival.

Free Shows at The Fringe

There are several benefits to volunteering. I got to spend time at a festival I love, and I met new people. An advantage of volunteering for The Fringe was getting Fringe bucks. These are vouchers volunteers get after finishing their shift for the day. You could use Fringe bucks to enter raffles with prizes donated by local merchants. You could also use them to buy tickets for shows at The Fringe. Several of the most popular shows are held over for a few performances after The Fringe is over. Fringe bucks were also valid for those shows. Some shows would set aside a set number of complimentary tickets for volunteers. These complimentary tickets didn’t require you to use Fringe bucks.

The Cost of Volunteering

I was all about using my Fringe bucks to see free shows. I worked seven shifts at The Fringe, giving me $140 in Fringe bucks. With these Fringe Bucks, I saw 15 different shows. I only paid $2.50 for one show, as I didn’t have enough Fringe bucks to cover the full price of the ticket.

Fringe Posters

Here are some posters for some shows at the 2013 Edmonton International Fringe Festival.

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Regular Fringe Tickets

Regular tickets for shows at The Edmonton International Fringe Festival are reasonable. Most range between $6 and $15. Aside from a $2.50/ticket fee (to cover the cost of putting on the festival) the rest of the ticket proceeds go to the artists. I love supporting the performing arts. Without volunteering, I likely would have seen a few shows, but not as many as when I volunteered.

Volunteering at the Fringe helped me see some shows at a low-cost. I met some great people, and I got a real experience helping out with a festival that I love. Volunteering for The Edmonton International Fringe Festival was a great experience. I encourage everyone to look into volunteering at a festival like The Fringe.

The Princess Theatre Edmonton

The Princess Theatre in Edmonton is an Art Deco movie theatre. They always host a few shows during The Fringe. I saw Scratch – a fantastic improv show that still sells out when it’s on at The Princess.

Volunteering Tips

Volunteering may or may not work for you if you’re travelling to see a show or go to an event like The Fringe. Make sure to get in contact with someone to see if volunteer positions are even available. Here are some things you’ll want to find out before signing up to volunteer for any show or event.

  • What kind of work will you be doing?
  • How much time per day/week will you have to commit to volunteering? You need to decide if the amount of time you’ll be spending as a volunteer will be worth it. Mainly if you have limited time at your destination.
  • Will you be inside or outside during your volunteer shift? Knowing the conditions, you’ll be volunteering in will help you prepare for a better time.
  • Will you be working with other people? Will there be someone on-site to help you out?
  • How many breaks do you get per shift? How long is each break?
  • Are food and drinks provided? Do you have to bring your own food and drinks?
  • Is there anything else you need to bring for your shifts? For example, volunteers at The Fringe needed to have their volunteers pass on them at all times, including when buying tickets or seeing a show.
  • What are the perks of volunteering? If you want to see a free show for volunteering, then you should make sure that this is possible before you sign up.

Final Thoughts

With a little bit of planning, you could see performances for free or at a low cost by volunteering. One last note: Everything has a price whether that cost concerns money or time. With volunteering, you spend your time helping others and supporting an organization. You need to be sure that this is a cause and commitment you are willing to make. Yes, seeing those free shows at The Fringe was great, but I wanted to volunteer for The Fringe. I would have done so regardless of the perks.

Have you volunteered to see a show for free?


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6 comments on “Cheap Theatre Series – Volunteer to See Shows for Free

  1. Great idea! I’ve always found that there are ways to be involved with the arts without paying high ticket prices… Way to go. Sounds so fun!

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