1/2 Tix an 'inexpensive, a win-win' for Berkshire theatergoers

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Seems everyone loves a deal, especially to see a Berkshire stage performance at half-price.

In its 16th summer, the 1/2 TIX operation is run by Barrington Stage Company in collaboration with 1Berkshire (the countywide economic development alliance which includes the former Berkshire Visitors Bureau).

Four locations in Pittsfield, North Adams, Lenox and Great Barrington offer selected bargains made available by some of the 10 participating presenters daily except Monday through Sept. 4.

Average seasonal ticket sales total about 5,000, said Linda Beach, marketing coordinator at 1Berkshire, which compiles the daily list of available bargains.

The half-price locations have logged over $1 million in sales since the operation was founded in 2001 by Barrington Stage and the Southern Berkshires Visitors Bureau, she noted.

"We're helping venues sell seats that might not be filled otherwise," Beach said. "It's helpful for patrons, especially locals like me. I can go to twice as many plays in a summer. And I've never had a complaint from a patron about a bad seat."

Bargain hunters line up at the spacious new Lenox Visitors Center, 4 Housatonic St., the Mass MoCA ticket office in North Adams, the Barrington Stage ticket window at 30 Union St. in Pittsfield, and the Triplex Cinema outdoor ticket booth at 70 Railroad Street in Great Barrington.

"We all work together, there really is no competition involved," said Kameron Spaulding, director of the Lenox Chamber of Commerce. The four locations compare demand and swap tickets accordingly.

"Sales are up because of our new location, we've seen larger crowds because I think it's more noticeable," Spaulding noted. "We have more room for people to wait to find the ticket they want." Previously, the booth was housed in a corner of the Lenox Library.

On a recent morning in Lenox, the first patrons lined up at 10:30 a.m. to join the waiting list for the day's offerings. Ticket sales begin at noon and customers who are not on hand when their number is called lose their turn. The Pittsfield site also has an 11 a.m. signup sheet, but not the Great Barrington and North Adams locations.

"I'm very pleased with the way things are run here," said local resident and first-in-line Beverly Hathaway, a frequent 1/2 TIX customer over the past 10 years. "It's inexpensive, a win-win for everybody. "

Weekends are especially busy at the Lenox site, according to Karyn Cohen, a nearby summer resident who lives in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the rest of the year.

Hathaway, Cohen and others in line were hoping to snag seats for the day's hot seller, "Capitol Steps" at Cranwell, the satirical comedy show that feeds off the presidential campaign this summer.

"My daughter said, 'I'd like to go and see what they have to say about the political situation, maybe I'll learn something,' " Cohen commented as she waited in line with her mother, Phyllis Ehrlich.

"It's a great idea, it encourages me, I wouldn't necessarily be able to go tonight," said Roz Kaufman, a Westchester County, N.Y., resident who spends summers in Monterey.

The 90-minute show plays nightly except Tuesday on the Cranwell Spa and Golf Resort's stage at the Harvest Barn, a new 220-seat location this summer on the west side of Route 20 at the driving range, across from the resort's main entrance.

Customers can check the day's cut-rate ticket availability from 11 a.m. on through a dedicated hot line (413-743-1339) or on the web at www.berkshires.org. It's a first-come, first-served cash-only policy with a $3 handling surcharge per ticket.

Staffing the front lines at the Lenox Visitors Center, Gina Foley was consulting a Google Doc spreadsheet on a laptop to keep track of available tickets shared with the three other locations.

She described the hour-in-advance signup sheet as "a bit of a challenge for some people, but it's a way to stay organized so people know they have an hour to figure out exactly what they want to see."

"I've explained the rules multiple times," Foley said. "The stumbling block is that I start making the list at 11, but people get here at 10:30, though they're pretty civil with each other and they line up in order. It's all-cash and other than that, it's pretty seamless. Noon to 12:30 is the crazy time."

Foley, a Pittsfield resident who teaches biology at Berkshire Community College during the academic year, explained that "I love theater so much and I like people, so I do this because I enjoy telling people about theater."

Since the ticket booths are open until 4:30 p.m., some theaters might release a second batch of available tickets in the afternoon. On Sunday, tickets are sold for that day as well as Monday, the only day of the week the booths are closed.

Looking ahead, Spaulding hopes to entice additional participants, including Mass MoCA and The Clark, as well as The Mount. "There would be interest in that, and maybe it could help everybody out," said Spaulding.

Contact Clarence Fanto at 413-637-2551.

Half-price tickets . . .

What: 1/2 TIX, Tuesday through Sunday, noon to 4:30, offering a limited number of half-price tickets for same-day performances at up to 10 participating stages, based on availability.

Where: Pittsfield: Barrington Stage, 30 Union St.; North Adams: Mass MoCA, main ticket office; Lenox Visitors Center, 4 Housatonic St.; Great Barrington: Triplex Cinema outdoor ticket booth, 70 Railroad St.

When: Tuesday through Sunday, noon to 4:30. (Arrive by 11 at Pittsfield and Lenox locations to join a signup list.)

How: For current availability starting at 11 a.m., www.berkshires.org or call the hotline at 413-743-1339. Availability is often updated at 1 p.m.

Participating venues: Barrington Stage Company; Berkshire Choral International; Berkshire Theatre Group; Capitol Steps at Cranwell; Chester Theatre Company; Mac-Haydn Theatre; Shakespeare & Company; Tanglewood (rarely); Theater Barn; Williamstown Theatre Festival (occasionally).


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