Second Acting a Broadway Show / Broadway Ticket Stub Passing
A ticket guide for how to sneak into a performance of a Broadway show
Sneaking Into A Broadway Show
Not widely known outside the community of regular Broadway theatergoers, "second acting" is the practice of sneaking into a theater during the intermission break and seeing the second act of a Broadway show for free. However, second acting has come to greater attention more recently with the season three finale of NBC's The Office, in which Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) and his "then" girlfriend Karen Filippelli ((Rashida Jones) admit to second acting the Broadway musical Spamalot during a trip to New York City.
Especially popular in the '70s and '80s, second acting was a way of getting the Broadway show experience without actually paying the high ticket prices. The idea would be to hang out with the smoking crowd in front of the theater during intermission, then mix in with the herd as they headed back inside. Once in, the second act-er would scout out an empty seat that was either unsold or abandoned by someone who decided to leave during intermission.
It sounds easy enough, but those trying to second act have often found out the hard way that an empty seat isn't always empty. It can be quite an embarrassing situation when the seat's occupant arrives (perhaps delayed by the long lines in the restrooms or at the bar) and the usher has to get involved. If you get caught, second acting will get you kicked out of the theatre in a heartbeat.
Since NBC's reference to Second Acting, the house managers at most Broadway theaters are now wise to second acting and while there are exceptions, audience members are usually asked to show their ticket stubs as they re-enter the theater for the second act. (As people head outside to get some fresh air at intermission, ushers can be heard calling out "Remember to bring your ticket with you! You'll have to show it to get back in!")
Some of the more established second-acters(Usually out-of-work Broadway actors or stage staff) would strike up relationships with the ushers and just turn up to any show whenever they wanted to see the second act - and the ushers would let them in and put them in an empty seat. Shows may change, but the people who work at the theatre often stay there for years.
Ticket Stub Passing
Obviously, as second-acting has caught on, so has the theatre management and they have tried to put a stop to it. Outside a theatre nowadays there are very few smokers anyway, with the New York City mayor threatening to ban smoking on the street there may soon be none.
The latest incarnation of second acting is to hang around outside the theater at intermission and ask anyone who might be ditching the show for their ticket stub. Its amazing just how many people quit the show at that point, either they got their tickets for free or they just hated the show - if they are going to ditch the show, the intermission is when they will do it. Of course, the whole thing really begs the question: Who wants to see just the second act of a show, anyway? And, of course, second acting doesn't work for the many Broadway shows that don't include an intermission.