The West Side Show Room offers free admission to everyone through our Open Ticket program.

By offering free tickets to all of our performances, The West Side Show Room takes a step toward fulfilling our mission of “making room” for everyone to participate in the transformative art of theater.



Is every ticket really free?

Is there a catch?

Should I feel guilty for using an OPEN TICKET?
Definitely not. We want you to feel excited and enjoy an amazing night of theater!

How do I get an OPEN TICKET?
Anyone can reserve up to 4 tickets for any show by visiting the Get Tickets page on our website, or by leaving a message at the box office at ‭(815) 708-8411‬

How do I use an OPEN TICKET?
Once you reserve your tickets, come to The WSSR starting one hour before the show and give your name at the door. Enjoy a drink from the bar. Seating is General Admission.

Can I cancel an OPEN TICKET?
Yes, totally. Be a good human being and let us know as soon as you can, so we can pass your ticket to someone else. Contact us at or ‭(815) 708-8411‬

What if OPEN TICKETS are sold out?
Since tickets are free we expect a certain number of cancellations and no-shows. Get on our waiting list, OR come to The WSSR early on the night of the show, and we will get you in as soon as seats become available. (Our waiting list becomes available on the Get Tickets page in the event of a sell out. You can also call the box office at ‭(815) 708-8411‬)

What if I’m late to an OPEN TICKET show?
Since tickets are free, you need to arrive at least 10 minutes before show time to guarantee your seat. Plan to arrive early in order to find parking, and enjoy a drink from our bar. If you arrive after the show starts, you risk losing your ticket. If seats are still available, you will be seated at the back of the theater during a scene change.

If you don’t charge for OPEN TICKETS, how do you make money?
Most nonprofit theaters only make a percentage of their annual budget from tickets, the majority comes from fundraising, grants, sponsorships, and related income— so why not all of it? We also make money every time you have a drink from our bar.

Are you a nonprofit?
The West Side Show Room is a tax exempt organization under Section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code, and is incorporated as a Not-For-Profit Corporation in the State of Illinois. Our EIN is 47-3553939.

How does OPEN TICKETING work?
Free theater is like public radio: anyone can listen for free, and those who are financially able to support it may choose to make a donation.

If THE WSSR doesn’t charge for OPEN TICKETS, will people value your work?
We believe people value things that are “of value” to them, even if those things are free. For example, many people value Google’s free Gmail service and use it every day. By working hard to create high quality theater, we believe people will find The West Side Show Room to be invaluable to Rockford.

How can I support your mission to make theater available to everyone in the Rockford area?
There are many ways to support us! You can make a one-time donation during the Open Ticket reservation process, you can become a WSSR Member with a recurring monthly or yearly donation (coming soon), you or your business can sponsor shows or events, or you can donate your time as a volunteer. For more information, contact us.

Will you ever charge for tickets?
All West Side Show Room shows are offered free to the public through our Open Ticketing program. If an outside group rents our performance space, they may choose charge for tickets.

Why did you decide to offer free tickets?
Anyone can go to any play in the Rockford area and see that theater is not for everyone in our city. There are many reasons for this, including the cost and “financial risk” of seeing a show. By removing the cost barrier, The West Side Show Room believes we will make our community better by attracting and growing a new diverse audience of theatergoers

What do you mean by “financial risk?”
Free tickets address the “cost barrier” (where people literally cannot afford to go to the theater), but it also addresses the “financial risk barrier” (where people can afford to go to the theater, but choose not to because it represents a risk of time and money). For example, a person might not think twice about paying $100 to hear their favorite band play, but they won’t pay $20 to see a play. The reason they will pay to hear the band is because they have already heard the music and know they will like it, so it represents a sound investment. They won’t go see a play, because they likely don’t know anything about it, and may not like it— therefore it represents a risky investment. By offering free tickets, The West Side Show Room removes the risk.

Do any other theaters offer free tickets?
Yes. Free theater got it’s modern start in 1954 when Joseph Papp created Shakespeare in the Park in New York City. Papp believed that live theater was as important as the public library, and should therefore be accessible by everyone for free. Bread & Puppet Theater of Vermont was founded in 1962 and serves free bread in addition to its performances. More recently, free theater has been pioneered by groups such as Oracle (Chicago), Red Tape Theatre (Chicago), Flux Theatre Ensemble (NYC), Mixed Blood Theatre (Minneapolis), Theatre Battery (Kent, WA), and Intiman Theatre (Seattle), among others.

Is the free ticketing model successful?
Free theaters report an increase in attendance by people of color, people with disabilities, young people, and— perhaps most importantly— first time ever theatergoers. Although there is a loss of income from ticket sales, free theaters report an increase in charitable giving and support from grant giving institutions.

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Any other questions about OPEN TICKETS? Contact us.