Volunteer Ushering: How to See Theater for Free!

Show-Score | By Maisa Chiang | Sep 19, 2016

As Show Score's previous member profile with Carrie highlighted, volunteering as a theater usher can be a great way to see shows for free.

Typically, volunteer ushers need to arrive 1-2 hours before a performance to receive a brief orientation and instructions for the evening. They may be asked to help get the theater ready to receive an audience. Once the house opens, ushers may have various duties including taking tickets, answering questions, and directing audience members to their seats. After everyone has been seated, volunteers can take an empty seat to enjoy the show, and may have to stay after for a short while to clean up discarded Playbills. Not all theaters accept volunteer ushers, but it never hurts to ask, and can be a great way to see great shows (all those tickets can get pricey after a while!).

Here's a rundown of some of the many theaters that have a volunteer usher program.

Broadway: as a general rule, Broadway theaters have paid, unionized ushers. The only exceptions to this are nonprofit theaters, listed below:

Manhattan Theatre Club: This fall, the Samuel J Friedman Theatre will be hosting the show "Heisenberg", starring Mary-Louise Parker. To learn more about volunteering there, call the Friedman Theatre Volunteer Usher line at (212) 399-3000 x5463 or write to volunteer@mtc-nyc.org.

Roundabout Theatre: Shows coming up at the Roundabout theaters include: "Holiday Inn", "Kiss Me Kate", "The Cherry Orchard", and Arthur Miller's "The Price". Note they are currently hiring paid, non-union ushers rather than taking volunteers. To apply, submit cover letter and resume.


Beyond Broadway:

Classic Stage Company: A nice, intimate theater that will be putting on an adaptation of the film "Dead Poets' Society", as well as the Stephen Sondheim musical, "Pacific Overtures". To join the volunteer usher list, email the House Manager at housemanager@classicstage.org.

Irish Repertory Theatre: If you're interested in seeing theater set in Ireland or dealing with Irish culture, the Irish Repertory Theatre is for you! Coming in October will be a run of "Finian's Rainbow". Email ushers@irishrep.org to receive information about ushering opportunities.

Pearl Theatre: Located on the far West Side of Manhattan on 42nd between 10th and 11th Avenues, the Pearl will feature "Public Enemy" by Henrik Ibsen and "Rhinoceros" by Eugene Ionesco this season. To sign up to volunteer, just fill out a Google Form.

Playwrights Horizon: If you're looking for new plays from emerging playwrights, this is the theater for you. Currently playing is "Aubergine" from Julia Cho. To join the volunteer usher email list, email usher@phnyc.org with "ADD TO LIST" in the subject line. In the body of the email, provide full name, a contact phone number, mailing address (optional), and a few sentences about why you'd like to be an usher at Playwrights Horizons.

Second Stage Theatre: In October, Anna Deavere Smith will be performing in a new show called "Notes from the Field". To volunteer, e-mailJSchleifer@2ST.com with full name, phone number and the productions in which you are interested in ushering for.


Many small theaters welcome volunteers, so if you're ever curious, it never hurts to stop by the box office and ask if they're taking on any new ushers!

  • Know any theaters with volunteer usher programs that we missed? Let us know in the comments below!
  • Have you ever volunteered as an usher? Tell us your ushering story in the comments!

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