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UC Berkeley Web Feature

 The National Ballet of China's performances in Sept. 2005 were a surprise hit with Berkeley students, completely selling out. (Image courtesy of Cal Performances)

Pssst … Cal students! Wanna buy a cheap ticket to the ballet? How about the circus?

– Imagine seeing the legendary Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater defy gravity for the same price as Ben Stiller defying history in "A Night of the Museum." You could — if you're a UC Berkeley student willing to be a little spontaneous and flexible about getting your entertainment fix.

To entice more students to venture through the doors of Zellerbach Hall, Cal Performances has been quietly selling last-minute, $10 "rush" tickets to many shows an hour before the curtain goes up. A few thousand students took advantage of the tickets last year, but "we would love to see that number double or triple," says Liz Baqir, Cal Performances' Ticket Office Manager.

The young and the cashless

Cal Performances routinely attracts more pre-eminent — and emerging — musicians, dancers, and performers to campus than any other public university's program. As part of its commitment to help Berkeley provide a well-rounded cultural education, Cal Performances always offers half-price tickets to all events to students.

'Being able to see so many shows has been one of the highlights of my experience here at Cal. Especially dance, because artists from all over the world come here — it’s really interesting to see them perform and learn a little more about other cultures in the process.'
-Eloy Aguirre
third-year history major

Yet when one looks around Zellerbach Hall before the curtain rises on a typical night, there are all too few under-30 faces in the audience. UC Berkeley students don't have a lot of free time, and by all accounts not much free spending money, either.

"Even with the student discount, tickets to some of our shows can be pretty expensive," says Laura Berlinger, a fourth-year religious studies major and Cal Performances house manager. "Student rush is a way for students to see famous performers and amazing shows for only 10 bucks — it's a pretty great deal!"

Eloy Aguirre, a third-year history major, has an even better deal through his job as an usher at Zellerbach Hall. "I basically get paid to watch shows," he says. "It's sweet. Being able to see so many shows has been one of the highlights of my experience here at Cal. Especially dance, because artists from all over the world come here — it’s really interesting to see them perform and learn a little more about other cultures in the process."

Here are the rules for rush: students can purchase rush tickets from the Zellerbach Hall ticket window no sooner than an hour before curtain time, using cash only — no credit-card or telephone orders. (Seniors over 65 are eligible for $15 rush tickets.) You can't choose your seats, but that doesn't mean that groups will be split up or stuck with an obstructed view.

"Rush is not about trying to fill the far reaches of the theater," says Baqir. "In terms of just speeding up the transaction and keeping the line moving when it's close to curtain time, it just goes much faster if we pick the seats for you."

Rushing roulette

Cal Performances has been slightly reluctant to advertise the program because rush tickets are not available for all shows. "The manager on duty at that performance makes the decision whether to open it up to rush based on a number of factors — how many tickets we have left, how much walk-up we're expecting, and if it seems like a show that students will be interested in," explains Baqir. She adds, "We do lean toward doing it as often as possible."

When you just have to go
Heartbroken that you couldn't get tickets to see Stephen Hawking or Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me? Cal Performances now offers a e-mail "notification list" for sold-out events, in case tickets unexpectedly become available; a link to the list is provided on the particular event.

There are some performances for which students prove unexpectedly willing to cough up the dough for half-price tickets, and those shows are not put on rush. "The National Ballet of China was huge with the students," marvels Baqir. "We were surprised at how many students wanted to see pretty traditional ballet. It sold out in advance, which we just weren't expecting."

Other perennial student favorites are world-stage music performers, such as Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Zakir Hussain's Masters of Percussion.

"Basically percussion — or anything loud! — is a big draw for students," laughs Baqir.

More information

Find out who'll be performing at Zellerbach Hall and Cal Performances' other venues this semester

Other Cal Performance discounts