How to Watch Broadway Shows on Tape for Free in New York

By Phaea Crede ; Updated September 15, 2017
Lincoln Center

If you are a fan of Broadway but are low on the funds required to pay the ticket price, New York City has an amazing and free alternative in its public library system. The NYPL of the Performing Arts in Lincoln Center offers a complete collection of Broadway shows from the past on film and tape. They are free to view for anyone who takes the few steps to get there.

Call the Theatre on Film and Tape Archive at the New York Library of the Performing Arts at (212) 870-1642. Tell them your name, the time you would like to come view a theater piece and the name of the show you want to see. The collection is so large that it is very likely that whatever show you want to see from the past 60-plus years will be available. The Theatre Collection hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Visit the New York Public Library of the Performing Arts at 40 Lincoln Center Plaza, tucked in the back of the Lincoln Center Plaza. To get there, take the 1 train to 66th Street and walk one block west. You can also take the D, B or A, C trains to Columbus Circle and transfer to the 1 train uptown for one stop to 66th Street and walk one block west.

Enter the Lincoln Center Plaza, which is west of Broadway between West 62nd Street and West 65th Street. Just walk in the direction of the fountain.

Continue straight ahead toward the Metropolitan Opera House and take a right.

See the New York Public Library of the Performing Arts set back about 50 feet between the Met Opera House and the Vivian Beaumont Theater. You can walk right in the front doors without needing a library card. Be prepared for your bag to be checked by security.

Walk or take the elevator up to the third floor of the New York Public Library of the Performing Arts to the Billy Rose Theater Collection, one of the world's most comprehensive collections of theater from the recordable past.

Walk to the the Lucille Lortel Room, adjacent and to the left of the main reading room. The Lucille Lortel Room will be obvious to you because it contains dozens of personal viewing screens and booths.

Notice at the front of the the Lucille Lortel Room an attendant at a desk. Introduce yourself, and tell her that you called to make an appointment. She will hand you a sheet to fill out with the information about the Broadway show you want you view. Under the section that asks you for the reason why you are viewing this show, simply write "Research."

Enter your assigned booth while the attendant programs the correct tape or film to be played.

Put on the headphones provided, and sit back and watch the show.

About the Author

Phaea Crede is a NYC based comedian and writer. You can see her perform monthly with her sketch troupe "mixtape '98" at the Upright Citizen's Brigade Theatre, also monthly as the host of the comedy show "Delusions of Spandex" at the Parkside Lounge, and at random times with her improv team "Hot for Gym Teacher".