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COVER STORY

Free and easy

Outdoor concerts, movie screenings and other bargains are part of the joy of summer.

July 13, 2006

CHEAPO. Tightwad. Penny-pincher. Skinflint.

Those who pride themselves on their frugality have a major image problem. It's fixable -- if only they could hire someone to create a multimillion-dollar campaign showing how cool it is to be a cheapskate. Of course, they won't.

Well, we're here to do a little pro bono work and say it's OK to scrimp.

After all, in an age when you can spend $14 on a movie ticket (see: the ArcLight), $3-plus for a gallon of gas (see: your local petroleum pusher) and more than $3,000 for one seat at a Barbra Streisand concert at Staples Center (see: Google), you need all the help you can get. In fact, a recent survey by a consulting firm ranked L.A. the second most expensive city in North America, behind New York.

Fortunately, in Southern California, summertime means the living is easy and the entertainment is cheap.

So there are free outdoor concerts by the handful, as well as movies and plays that take full advantage of the weather. There are inexpensive sporting events that bring you close to the action, with some stars of tomorrow -- and perhaps one or two from the past. And there are opportunities to access all sorts of venues free, whether a museum, a Silver Lake hipster hangout or the Hollywood Bowl.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday July 14, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 45 words Type of Material: Correction
Shakespeare by the Sea: An article about inexpensive entertainment in Thursday's Calendar Weekend stated that Shakespeare by the Sea is presenting "The Merry Wives of Windsor" and "Othello" in repertory in San Pedro. In fact, the troupe is staging "The Comedy of Errors" and "Hamlet."

Given the wealth of low-budget entertainment options, even the biggest of the big spenders might unknowingly stumble across one. But for those who delight in getting something for nothing, we offer a slightly more methodical approach to finding a selection of some of the better bargains. Best of all: They're just the tip of the iceberg.

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THEATER

Seeing Shakespeare performed in his natural habitat doesn't require ducats, though a sweater might come in handy.

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IN William Shakespeare's era, working-class "groundlings" paid a pittance to sit on the ground in an open-air theater to watch his plays. Not much has changed today: Look for free summer outdoor theater and it's really all about the Bard. But why?

"There's a special appeal to having Shakespeare performed outdoors -- the context it was written for," says Melissa Chalsma, who along with husband David Melville runs the Independent Shakespeare Company. "As for the free part, I don't know why there are so many of them. But part of our mission as a theater is to expand our audience, providing theater to as many people as possible."

With a focus on the text and props at a minimum, the troupe has made a mark with its free shows at Barnsdall Art Park in Hollywood. Times reviewer David C. Nichols wrote that this summer's production of "As You Like It" was "a watershed" for the troupe, which was founded in 1998. The play is at 7:30 p.m. Fridays through Sundays, in repertory with "Hamlet," through Aug. 13 (independentshakespeare.com).

Next week, Shakespeare Festival/LA arrives with "The Two Gentlemen of Verona," set in the tumultuous late 1960s. If you don't have any bread, there's free seating at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown L.A. for 8 p.m. performances Wednesday through July 23. But don't let the Man get you down: Reservations are required and available for the first 300 callers per show at (213) 975-9891. It'll be a big savings compared with when the play moves to the South Coast Botanic Garden, July 26-30, at $18 a ticket (shakespearefestivalla.org).

After Shakespeare in the park, and Shakespeare near the vestibule, why not Shakespeare by the Sea? Now in its seventh season, the troupe presents "The Merry Wives of Windsor" and "Othello" in repertory at Point Fermin Park in San Pedro at 8 p.m. Friday through Sunday. It moves around through mid-August to locales including Rancho Palos Verdes, Laguna Niguel and South Pasadena -- so your "seaside" view may vary. (shakespearebythesea.org)

And keeping with the ocean theme, the Long Beach Shakespeare Festival (lbshakespeare.com) offers "The Taming of the Shrew" at 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and "Antony and Cleopatra" July 22-Aug. 13.

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ROCK RESIDENCIES

Clubs

Free weeknight indie shows rock -- and they're a win-win for everyone.

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WEEKENDS might be for the kind of concert-going that stretches the credit card thin, but free weeknight shows -- especially at the troika of the Silverlake Lounge, the Echo and Spaceland on the Eastside -- remain the city's best bargain. Sans cover charge, those indie rock-leaning clubs set aside Mondays for monthly residencies, with one band playing every week supported by a rotating cast of three acts. There's no drink minimum, and no cost to park (unless you valet at Spaceland, or flout the neighborhood restrictions).

"You get not just the resident bands, but some pretty big up-and-coming bands," says Ashley Jex, 22, who under the name Jax writes the L.A. music blog RockInsider.com. "All the tastemaker music one broke blogger can see -- that's what Monday nights are for."

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