Hugh Southern Dies: Co-Creator Of Broadway’s TKTS Discount Ticket Booth Was 87

TKTS Booth, Times Square Shutterstock

Hugh Southern, who left a lasting and significant impact on the Broadway industry with his involvement in the establishment of the ever-popular TKTS discount ticket booths in New York, died July 15 at a hospital in Leesburg, VA. He was 87.

His death was first reported yesterday by The New York Times. His wife, Kathy Dwyer Southern, told the newspaper that Southern died from pneumonia and congestive heart failure.

Hugh Southern (TDF executive director 1968-82) with current TDF executive director Victoria Bailey, 2013 David LeShay/TDF

Southern was the acting chairman for the National Endowment for the Arts in the 1980s – at the height of the NEA’s embattlement from right-wing political forces – and later was general manager for New York’s Metropolitan Opera.

From 1968 to 1982, Sourthern was the first executive director of what was then called the Theater Development Fund (TDF is standard today), the not-for-profit organization devoted to promoting live theater and dance in New York. During his tenure, Southern oversaw the establishment of TDF’s TKTS booth, a now-integral element of the city’s theater-going experience for countless tourists and New Yorkers alike.

The booth – once a ramshackle trailer, now a snazzy glass and neon outpost perfectly at home in the glitzy post-Disney Times Square –¬†offers same-day tickets to Broadway and Off Broadway shows, made available by producers selling the day’s unsold seats. Once informally known as the “half-price booth,” the TKTS Discount Booths now offer tickets to productions (dance too) for between 20% to 50% off regular prices.

The first booth opened in 1973 in the theater district. Two additional outposts now exist at Lincoln Center and near the South Street Seaport, as well as a website and an app. According to The Times, TKTS sold more than 1.1 million same-day discounted tickets for the recent fiscal year ending June 30, accounting for 8 percent of Broadway tickets.

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