By Lisa K. Berton
It's no secret, New York City isn't easy on the wallet. Rent is high and in turn, restaurant prices are generally higher than you'd find in a suburb. A play or musical on or near Broadway can set a couple back a few hundred bucks. For those looking to save instead of spend, there are entertainment options that won't cost you a single penny. In fact, you might just luck out with something more than a spot to watch the action.
Sitcoms, those 30 minute evening jokesters come out of California (mostly) but a bunch of the morning and late night television shows are filmed in New York. You've seen studio audiences on your TV, clapping, smiling, and looking surprised. Maybe you haven't thought about them before or more importantly, how you can be where they are, doing what they're doing, and seeing what they're seeing.
ABC Studios sits on a block facing West 67th St and West 66th St between Columbus Avenue and Central Park West. Step inside and you'll discover stages for "The View", "Kelly and Ryan", "The Chew" "ABC News". You can see all but "ABC News" tape shows.
"Late Night with Seth Meyers" tapes in Rockefeller Center as does "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon". "Good Morning America" comes out of their Times Square studio. Check out all of the theaters over on Broadway by "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert".
Signing up for free tickets is simple. Go to the audience casting agency's website, 1iota and sign up for a new account. Be sure to fill out your profile and upload a photo of yourself. These tasks may help increase your chances of getting tickets. The agency offers tickets to a variety of shows in New York as well as other areas.
Once you've been approved, they will email you. Read the instructions carefully regarding when and where to arrive. Each show has different rules about photography and what you should wear. That information will be provided to you on your ticket(s).
Pictured above: Merchandise is available for purchase in the waiting room for "The View". Pictured below: On the set for "The View" photography is allowed before the show begins filming. Turn off your cell phones as instructed. This show is live and a ringing phone can ruin a show.
Now that you're ready to go, check the weather as you'll be waiting outside for 30-60 minutes before being allowed inside. Bring your photo ID and prepare to go through security. Audience members wait in a room before entering the studio. At "The View," a full service Starbucks was available. Whereas folks waiting for "The Chew" were given bottles of water and snacks. Restrooms are available and each show handles access differently. Typically filming doesn't exceed air time. You may be asked to stay seated so they can shoot promos or footage that will appear in a different episode. A comedian or hype person keeps the audience energized with humor and may act as a go-between the audience and celebrities. On a lucky day, people walk away with a free gift.
Pictured left: Clinton Kelly of "The Chew" cozied up to fans for photos once filming wrapped. Pictured right: Michael Symon chats while Carla Hall sprints into the stands. She is known for dancing with people during commercial breaks.
Just a few blocks away from ABC Studios you'll find the always impressive Lincoln Center. Check their website calendar for scheduled events. Under the Price heading, click on Free. You're sure to find several concerts to choose from, whether outside or indoors, performed by a soloist, band, or orchestra. Additional no charge entertainment offerings are dance performances, presentations and discussions, all in regard to the performing arts.
Pictured above: Singer and actress, Melissa Errico, performed songs during the My Fair Lady installment of The History of the World in 100 Performances.
Also free is the series, The History of the World in 100 Performances. Held in the David Rubenstein Atrium and hosted by New Yorker writer, Adam Gopnik, each event delves into the rich history of a popular theatrical production and includes at least one guest.
During the tribute to My Fair Lady, Gopnik was joined by Melissa Errico who previously portrayed the lead, Eliza Doolittle, on Broadway. Star of stage and screen, Kevin Kline, performed several readings for a happy audience. Rounding out the guest list was Dominic McHugh, author of Loverly: The Life and Times of "My Fair Lady", and Andre Bishop, Artistic Director of Lincoln Center Theater and Producing Artistic Director.
Pictured left: Actor Kevin Kline. Pictured right: Andre Bishop, Dominic McHugh, and Adam Gopnik
With so much to do and early morning shows, why not stay nearby? Across the street from Lincoln Center sits The Empire Hotel. Rooms are decorated with geometric shapes in gray, burnt orange, and browns. A stocked mini fridge, packaged snacks, and bottled water bottles come with price list. Stall shower bathrooms feature C.O. Bigelow Apothecaries toiletries. A nice surprise was finding packaged ear plugs to help drown out the street noise below. Interior rooms are likely to be quieter. I found the bed to be comfortable and the room clean. Visit The Empire Hotel on your mobile device for special deals.
Disclaimer: Free Time Journal paid a discounted media rate for a one night stay.
Pictured below: Room 316 is a Deluxe King that faces Lincoln Center.