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100 Free Things: Theater and Performing Arts


1) The National Theatre’s free performance series Saturday Morning at the National is designed for the whole family. The lineup changes weekly, showcasing puppetry, magic, music and ballet. Seating is limited, and tickets are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis 30 minutes before the curtain goes up. Check the theater's website for its performance schedule.

2) Take in a free performance at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage every evening at 6 p.m. Acts include everything from performances by the National Symphony Orchestra to poetry slams. The Kennedy Center offers deep discounts to patrons ages 17-25 through its Attend program.

3) Feel the beat of a local tradition: Head to Meridian Hill Park on Sundays (weather-permitting) between 3 and 9 p.m. to hear the famous drum circle, a fixture in the park for more than 40 years that brings together people together from all different backgrounds to hear drum beats and watch African dancing. For a hands-on experience, bring your own drum and join in.

4) Check out free live music at the National Gallery of Art on Sunday evenings at 6:30 p.m. Concerts feature choral, Afghan, opera music and more, and are held in the West Building (6th Street and Constitution Avenue NW entrance). Seats are available on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 6 p.m., and there's no entry after 6:30 p.m.

5) Head over to George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium, where free shows are sprinkled throughout the performance calendar. The GW Orchestra concerts are all free and open to the public. You might even catch a live performance by the United States Air Force Band’s Jazz Ensemble.

6) Get half-price day-of-show or advance tickets for theater seats at the Kennedy Center, Folger Theatre, Ford's Theatre and more online at TICKETPLACE.org, run by the Cultural Alliance of Greater Washington DC. 

7) At Arena Stage, half-price HotTix tickets go on sale at the box office 30 minutes before curtain. Students get 35 percent off, and patrons under 30 can take part in the pay-your-age program, with tickets on sale three months before the performance date; purchase by phone (202-488-3300) or in person. Arena Stage is also group-friendly: groups of 10 or more can get up to 50% off on regular ticket prices. A $10 deposit per seat will grant your group great seats at a great price.

8) Get a taste of the Bard for a great value at the Harman Center of the Arts. Patrons 35 and under can get discounted tickets to see the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s productions for $25 through their Young Prose program. The weekly allotment of discounted tickets is released every Tuesday morning of show season starting at 10 a.m.

9) Story District shines the spotlight on different storytellers from around the city each month. Often irreverent and laugh-out-loud funny, performances are meant to be based on an autobiographical experience. Tickets usually cost $15 and venues vary each month.

10) Enjoy free live jazz at the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Take Five! performance series. It usually takes place on the third Thursday of each month, and the museum's café stays open so guests can enjoy beer, wine and light snacks during the performance.

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