ArtsTix sign
Photo courtesy San Diego Performing Arts League

From every direction these days, we’re being told to get a jump on holiday gift-buying.

So, if you want to make all your arts-loving friends and family really happy, have I got a super-saving suggestion for you!

The San Diego Performing Arts League is presenting an Arts Access Weekend on Dec. 4-5, offering tickets to live theater, music and dance performances at “Pay What You Will” prices. You can’t beat that.

And to ensure that it’s a win-win success, participating arts organizations will receive their full ticket value. SDPAL will subsidize the balance of the face value of all tickets sold, thanks to grant support from the California Arts Council.

“It has been more than 20 years since SDPAL offered a Pay What You Will event,” says Jay Henslee, president of the nonprofit arts organization whose membership includes 70 local arts organizations.

“We have a world-class performing arts scene here,” Henslee continues. “And what better way to celebrate the return of live performances to San Diego than to bring audiences back?

“Arts Access Weekend is about making the arts financially accessible to everyone, while at the same time, providing support for our local arts organizations.”

SDPAL advocates for performing arts organizations county-wide, and operates the iconic ArtsTix Ticket Center in Horton Plaza Park, San Diego’s box office for the performing arts, which recently celebrated its 35th anniversary. The ArtsTix booth offers year-round discounted tickets to shows, events and attractions throughout San Diego.

On Arts Access Weekend, “pay what you will” tickets to theater, ballet and music will be available at the ArtsTix booth, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Dec. 4 and 5.

“We want to bring people back to ArtsTix,” says Henslee “So many people don’t know about the incredible deals they can get there, all year long.”

Tickets will be available primarily for December and January performances. The phrase ‘Pay What You Will,’ Henslee explains, “means you can still pay full price and support the arts, if you’d like.”

Participating performing arts organizations and the shows they’re featuring include:

The Old Globe (“Trouble in Mind”), La Jolla Playhouse (“to the yellow house”), San Diego REP (“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime”), New Village Arts (“1222 Oceanfront: A Black Family Christmas”), Diversionary Theatre (“Azul”), Trinity Theatre Company (“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever”), Coronado Playhouse “(“The Spongebob Musical”), City Ballet (“The Nutcracker”), North Coast Repertory Theatre (“Always, Patsy Cline”),Patio Playhouse (“Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and then some”), San Diego Ballet (“The Nutcracker”), American History Theatre (“This We’ll Defend”) and many more.

“I’m really excited and honored that we’re able to do this for San Diego,” Henslee says. “I really hope this gives the boost we need to get people back to the theater. It makes for a unique holiday gift, and I hope to see this become an annual event.

“We need the arts now more than ever. We can’t wait to be part of welcoming audiences to the magic of live performing arts!”

  • What: The SDPAL’s Arts Access Weekend
  • When: Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 4 and 5, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Where: ArtsTix Ticket Center in Horton Plaza Park, 900 4th Ave., Unit 3 (across the street from the U.S. Grant Hotel in downtown San Diego)
  • For more information and a current list of featured shows and participating organizations, go to

Pat Launer, a member of the American Theatre Critics Association, is a long-time San Diego arts writer and an Emmy Award-winning theater critic. An archive of her previews and reviews can be found at