Culture me for cheap!
December 11, 2008 10:21 AM   Subscribe

Help me pick out the best play, opera, lecture and art exhibit to see this winter in NYC. I'm a lowly wage slave who can't shell out $300 to see every Broadway sensation that comes to town, so I'd like to attend one incredible event in each category with a high return-on-awesome factor so I can walk away cultured but not impoverished.

My criteria for lectures is open-ended: I'll easily enjoy most anything aside from hard science data, so if you've got a lecture marked on your calendars that is truly, earth-shatteringly rad, share. No Nerd Nite stuff--it's a great concept that devolved into a meat market. I enjoy lots of concept art about social issues, as long as it's smart: more like Kara Walker at the Whitney, less like the frothy superhero costume exhibit at the Met. I've never seen an opera in the US, but I'm a sucker for decadent costumes and pageantry more than the quality of voices (which my philistine ears can't really distinguish from the understudies' performance, I'd imagine), and I have no idea how to judge the merits of the Met calendar based on subject and talent. Should I spring for a Mozart/Wagner staple or a more modern piece? As for plays, I lean towards lovely dialogue over experimental acting or camp, but I'm such a theater rookie that I'd rather not take my own advice on such matters. I hate hate hate most musicals, so advise with caution.

So what would you sleek New York MeFites attend if you rarely spend more than $80 on anything beyond a metro card? I'm going alone, so I've got only myself to worry about. Let's assume I can spare $25ish on the art exhibit, $100 on a play, $100 on an opera, and $50 on a lecture.
posted by zoomorphic to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
For plays, I suggest August: Osage County. Absolutely fabulous. And at 3 hours and 20 minutes, you get your money's worth (it sounds long, but it goes by in a flash).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:24 AM on December 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Firstly, go to TKTS for cheaper tickets.

Secondly, decide what you want to see and then see if you can get cheapter tix. Try the New Yorker reviews (they do a great job of telling you what's worth going to). Check craigslist, etc. for tickets (a lot of people sell the day of).

The New School often hosts interesting lectures that aren't too expensive.
posted by cestmoi15 at 10:45 AM on December 11, 2008

Go to TKTS and get a ticket for The 39 Steps if it's still playing. It was really, really, really good.
posted by Precision at 10:49 AM on December 11, 2008

First off, you can spend waaaay less than 100 dollars on a play. Go to BroadwayBox or some other discount site if you want to plan further ahead than TKTS booths will allow.

Opera's a bit harder, since CityOpera (the people's opera) is in planned and unplanned turmoil this year, so the Met's the main option. Unfortunately, it isn't very student rush-friendly. If they're not sold out, you can get always get Family Circle tickets only for somewhere between 15 and 50 dollars. For instance, La Boheme on 12/26 has Family Circle FRONT seats at $36 available. It's one of the most oft-performed operas and is a very decadent Zeffirelli production (the second act is the epitome of pageantry).
posted by aswego at 11:09 AM on December 11, 2008

Best answer: For performances at the Met Monday-Thursday, $20 rush (day of) tickets. These go on sale at the Met Opera box office 2 hours before curtain (so, 6 PM for an 8 PM performance). For many weekday performances, there are also, as aswego notes, $15 Family Circle tickets.

As for what to see, you can Ask Figaro. For a first opera, I'd go with a classic.
posted by andrewraff at 11:31 AM on December 11, 2008

If you like contemporary art -- especially contemporary art as practiced by crazy, now-dead Germans -- you could go to MoMA now to see the Joseph Beuys installation, or go in March (does that still count as winter?) to see the Martin Kippenberger show after it leaves Los Angeles.
posted by scody at 12:19 PM on December 11, 2008

Best answer: PS1 has an event next tuesday that's both a performance and a party, showcasing their NeoHooDoo exhibit. It's a pretty good exhibit, neo-primitivism (dangerous word theire) done gingerly, respectively, and nicely. Also -- notice the "PS1 would like to thank Grolsch" line down at the bottom? That's museum-speak for "free beer".

Oh, and ICP has a panel going on today and tomorrow called What is Real: Documentary Photography and the Politics of Truth -- It's bound to be politically inspired and heavily art-historical and theoretical, I bet. If I remember the AskMe questions you asked correctly, they're bound to be up your alley.
posted by suedehead at 1:37 PM on December 11, 2008

Oh oh two more things. I have so much work and I'm desk-bound so I'd rather someone else enjoy these things vicariously!

First. Are you a student? If so, and your institution doesn't support it already, then you should get an AAM membership. For a student, it's $35 a year (if you're not, it's $55), but it'll get you in for free for AAM museums -- that is to say, most museums in NYC. I'm pretty sure both the Guggenheim, Whitney, and the MoMA are AAM institutions, and so going to each of those recuperates the cost of the membership already.

Note -- I've never done this myself, but talked to people who did, so you might want to call them and make sure, but the organization itself seems pretty reputable.

Second -- NYU's ITP and Hunter's MFA programs are both having thesis shows next week. What a better idea than to look at some young, contemporary art?
posted by suedehead at 1:48 PM on December 11, 2008

Sorry -- that ICP panel up there is going on Friday and Saturday, not today.
posted by suedehead at 1:49 PM on December 11, 2008

Theatre, even Broadway, does not have to be $100 a ticket. Many shows have rush options, where you can get $20-25 tickets. And for the shows that don't have rush options, or limit them to students, there is the aforementioned TKTS booth. Also, there are smaller theatres all throughout the area that will have really great work that isn't outrageously priced the way Broadway shows are. Unfortunately, I don't know NYC the way I know Chicago or Miami, so I can't make quality recommendations. But in a town that has so many theatre companies, there is bound to be a group doing something you like at a price you can afford.

Also, while this doesn't fit in the time frame of your question, mark October 15th, 2009 on your calendar. Because Free Night of Theater will be back across the country, including New York City, and you can't beat free.
posted by JustKeepSwimming at 9:04 PM on December 11, 2008

The New York Public Library system has some great, free, off-the-beaten-path lectures and performances -- like today's talk on the history of the NYC dialect or tomorrow's "Mark Twain's Last Stand" (check out the NYPL events calendar for more).
posted by rebekah at 2:17 AM on December 15, 2008

For plays in general, I always look to BAM for shows that I know are going to be good. Many of them are transfers from the UK, where they've already proven themselves, and they often have really excellent, well-known actors.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:33 PM on December 20, 2008

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