Between parking, drinks and tickets, an evening of theater doesn’t always come cheap. But, you shouldn’t let the pricey reputation of live shows keep you seated at home in front of the television. There’s plenty of theater to be had locally for free, or at least for less than the price of a movie ticket. These theater picks should satisfy even the most frugal.


Whistler in the Dark

791 Tremont Street
Boston, MA 02118

Whistler in the Dark, one of Boston’s smartest fringe outfits, offers a regular season at the South End’s Factory Theatre. Keep an eye on their schedule for pay-what-you-can previews as well as Whistler Wednesdays; monthly readings of new plays presented free of charge.


Harvard Radcliffe Dramatic Club

64 Brattle Street
Cambridge, MA 02138

Where else can you find a microbiology major who also does a pretty good Ophelia, but Harvard? The Harvard Radcliffe Dramatic Club produces 14-18 shows each year, most of which are free. They don’t even ask for donations. The plays typically have short runs and “sell” out quickly, so reserve your tickets early by email. The most interesting campus venue is a former swimming pool turned theater, where Peter Sellars directed shows as a student.


Commonwealth Shakespeare

Parkman Bandstand, Boston Common
Boston, MA 02116

It’s satisfying to know that what’s probably the most talked about theatrical production of Boston’s theater-year is absolutely free. Each summer, the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company puts on a large-scale Shakespeare production that’s not to be missed. It suits families and picnics well, but get there early to stake out a patch of grass, as the crowds pour out for this one. Chairs up front can be reserved for the price of a small donation, but this can put you too close to the loudspeakers.


Company One

527 Tremont Street
Boston, MA 02216

Company One, a small theater company in residence at the South End’s Boston Center for the Arts, brings a short season of new, socially aware plays to Boston each year, often producing the work of young and local playwrights. Most shows have a pay-what-you-can preview with a $6 minimum.

Bryce Lambert blogs on the Boston arts scene at, offering the occasional review and bit of commentary on local shows, concerts, and art exhibitions.