Free and easy

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.

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."

Free Mondays at Spaceland (clubspaceland.com) started in 1996, the brainchild of booker Mitchell Frank, who adopted the idea from an old Sunset Strip club. The residencies have become a breeding ground for some of L.A.'s most dynamic acts, as well as a stop for on-the-cusp bands testing the city's waters.

"If you put the best up-and-coming local bands, and book their friends' bands with them, and have somebody special every once in a while, it becomes a great thing," says talent buyer Jennifer Tefft of Spaceland Productions, which also books the Echo (attheecho.com).

It's not so bad for the venues either. "It's hard to book shows and get a paid cover on a Monday," says Scott Sterling of the Fold (foldsilverlake.com), the agency that books shows at five locales, including the Silverlake Lounge. "But it also allows you a little experimentation in the kinds of people you book, maybe the kind of act you wouldn't want to try on a paid night."

Not that the strategy is limited to the Eastside. Other venues -- including the Detroit Bar (detroitbar.com) in Costa Mesa and, on some Mondays, the Troubadour (troubadour.com) -- have no-cover nights to showcase local talent. And the newest addition, the 2-year-old, all-ages Ruby Tuesdays promotion at the Key Club (keyclub.com), is drawing huge crowds to the Sunset Strip, where parking is generally cheaper, though not free, on Tuesdays.

Many of the young bands that have played Tuesdays at the Key Club have earned record deals, with the odd bigger name crashing the party. "We've really been successful because of the bands we've had play," says Carrie Istad, the venue's local talent buyer.

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OUTDOOR CONCERTS

Concerts

Discover a crucible of experimental performance, and seats at Hollywood Bowl that are actually less than $1.

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THE Greek Theatre, Ford Amphitheatre and Hollywood Bowl are local landmarks, but between parking hassles and often high ticket prices, outdoor concert lovers on a budget might almost be better off rolling a TV onto their patio for an episode of "Austin City Limits." Luckily, there are free alternatives.

Grand Performances at California Plaza is a grande dame of the genre, as it enters its 20th year of concerts and cultural happenings. The key to its success, says executive and artistic director Michael Alexander, is the freedom the nonprofit program gives performers and audiences.

"We give creative opportunities for performers to try something new," he says. "And audiences have a museum-goer's control over what they want to see. Unlike at Disney Hall or the Chandler Pavilion, no one is going to judge you if you show up late or leave early." (Speaking of museums and music, see Page 29.)

At 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, the highflying Diavolo Dance Theatre twists bodies and minds. Jazz improviser David Ornette Cherry on July 21, the daKAH Hip Hop Orchestra on July 28, the Mladi Chamber Orchestra on Aug. 12 and the Beijing LDTX Modern Dance troupe Aug. 24-26 prove the eclectic taste of the tradition at downtown L.A's Water Court remains undiluted (grandperformances.org).

Jazz fans can get their fill at the 11th annual Central Avenue Jazz Festival, with the Gerald Wilson Orchestra, Barbara Morrison, Ernie Andrews and Nedra Wheeler, among others, July 29 and 30 (culturela.org).

And what wine goes best with jazz? Every Tuesday night until Aug. 29 Hollywood & Highland Center will answer such burning questions with its Wine & Jazz series. Each week a different artist is paired with a presumably complementary wine, continuing with Poncho Sanchez from 7 to 9 p.m. this Tuesday. The music is free -- but not the drinks. The mall also features Fridays by the Fountain, a noontime series showcasing African music until Aug. 18, then folk, bluegrass and jazz ensembles for a month starting Aug. 25 (hollywoodandhighland.com).

The Santa Monica Pier's Twilight Dance Series continues its 22nd year Saturday with the signature staccato grinds of surf guitar legend Dick Dale. Other highlights include the underground hip-hop of Lyrics Born on July 27 and Jerry Garcia cohort David Grisman and his bluegrass-rich "dawg music" Aug. 31 (twilightdance.org).

Finally, one of the greatest bargains comes from the Chardonnay-splashed Hollywood Bowl. Sure, there are $1 bleacher seats for Wednesday jazz or Tuesday and Thursday classic nights. But how about free music, with free parking? On a case-by-case basis, the Bowl allows fans to watch artist rehearsals -- usually the L.A. Philharmonic and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra -- from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Decisions on which rehearsals are open are made a week in advance, so call ahead: (323) 850-2000 (hollywoodbowl.com).

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MOVIES

Movies

Go retro and pay little to nothing for vintage -- or just weeks-old -- flicks.

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UNLESS you run into one of those guys in Westwood hawking free passes, it's hard to see the latest movies for little to no cost. But wait a few weeks -- or revisit some oldies but goodies -- and plenty of cheap films await.

Discount movie houses offer films that have been out for several weeks at considerably less than the average ticket price of $6.40. Yes, they are a dying breed; thank the rise of DVDs and generally weaker box office for that, says Paul Dergarabedian of Exhibitor Relations Co. "But, as opposed to DVDs, they still give people a chance to see a movie as it's meant to be seen," he says.

Starplex Cinemas runs the Woodbridge Movies 5 in Irvine and the La Mirada Movies 7 -- where movies cost a buck before 6 p.m., $1.50 after 6 (starplexcinemas.com). The Regency Theatres chain operates theaters in North Hollywood, Ventura, Huntington Beach and Redondo Beach with a top ticket price of $3 (regencymovies.com). So what if the floor might be a little stickier than at the Bridge: Cinema de Lux?

For family fare, some chains offer free screenings of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," "Ice Age," "Shrek" and the like. The trade-off is that they're midweek mornings, and you might have them on DVD anyway. Still, the Krikorian Kids Series is at 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Aug. 29 (kptmovies.com). Regal Cinemas' Family Film Festival takes place at most of its theaters, 10 a.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, well into August (regalcinemas.com). The AMC Summer Movie Camp is at 10:30 a.m. Wednesdays through Aug. 9 (amctheatres.com). And for $2 per screening or $6 for the series, the Regency Kids Summer Movie Camp screens at 11 a.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays through Aug. 16.

Though shopping centers are designed to separate people from their cash, some hold free outdoor screenings. Universal CityWalk fires up a big screen at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Aug. 31, with "Napoleon Dynamite" tonight (citywalkhollywood.com). In Pasadena on Saturday nights, One Colorado offers Screwball Classics of the '30s and '40s at 8:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays in July (onecolorado.com).

The trick at both these spots is to avoid parking fees ($10 to $17 at Universal, $5 at One Colorado). With a $3 day Metro pass, you can take the Red Line to Universal City and ride a shuttle to CityWalk. Or for One Colorado, ride the Gold Line to Memorial Park or Del Mar and walk -- all the more reason to get some buttered popcorn.

Going further back into the vaults, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art presents films from the Warner Bros./Turner Entertainment library at 1 p.m. Tuesdays, for $2 -- $1 for those 62 and older, who seem to be the majority of the crowd. On tap July 25: "National Velvet" (lacma.org).

For edgier fare, the Orange County Museum of Art has a free outdoor series of indie films from this year's Newport Beach Film Festival. The romance-drama "Sweet Land" screens at 8:30 tonight, and the series continues every other Thursday until Aug. 24 (ocma.net).

Lastly, come late summer-early fall, various colleges will offer free or discounted screenings to the "school community." Far be it from us to judge, but if you like feeding the squirrels at UCLA, who's to say you're not in the community?

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SPORTS

Sports

Canseco and some skunks, Lisa Leslie and X Games daredevils are all in play.

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IF you want to sit close enough to see someone of Kobe Bryant's magnitude sweat, you can forget about going the cheap route. But would you settle for Jose Canseco?

The former Major League Baseball star is now in Long Beach at Blair Field, home of the minor-league, independent Long Beach Armada. Never heard of them? Most folks hadn't until Canseco was traded there last week. Eight dollars still buys a reserved seat right behind home plate -- as opposed to sitting in the top deck at Dodger Stadium ($6, day of game) or the left-field family pavilion at Angel Stadium ($9, adults; $5, kids). And who knows, perhaps during this weekend's three-game series versus the Fullerton Flyers, there might be an appearance by the Armada's newest mascots, the Rally Skunks, a family of live skunks that has taken up residence near the field and pay visits to the outfielders in late innings (www.goldenbaseball.com/longbeach).

In summer, there is a first-place basketball team with a Hall of Fame center playing at Staples Center. Decent tickets to see this yellow-clad team can be had for as little as $8.50 a game.

No, it's not the Lakers from a few years ago; it's Lisa Leslie and her Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA. Tuesday, they host the New York Liberty (www.wnba.com/sparks).

Meanwhile, the next generation of NBA players is on display at the Pyramid of Long Beach in the Summer Pro League, which started last week and runs until July 22. Laker hopefuls Andrew Bynum and Jordan Farmar are among those showing their stuff on the hardwood. Tickets are $12 for a daily session of five games, or $2 a game (www.summerproleague.com).

Hockey heads can check out players trying to get their shot at the NHL at the free L.A. Kings' Development Camp, which finishes up today and Friday morning at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo (www.lakings.com).

Equally free, but not so cold, are two beach events: First, Muscle Beach in Venice holds a bodybuilding and figure demonstration 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, which leads up to the Sept. 29 and 30 men's and women's figure contests (www.healthandfitness.com/musclebeach). Second, surfers hit the waves for the Huntington Beach Pro Am, from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. July 22 and 23, at the Goldenwest Street section of Huntington Beach (www.hbsurfseries.com).

And those who know what a "flip kick to no-hander" is -- translation: "one scary move on an airborne motorbike" -- will probably want to shell out $5 for X Games 12, the "alternative" Olympics held Aug. 3 through 6 at the Home Depot Center and Staples Center. BMX racers, motocross high-fliers and big-air skateboard daredevils will all risk their lives for your viewing pleasure (www.expn.com).

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MUSEUMS

Museums

Think these places are staid? Try visiting in summer, when music, films and cash bars are offered some nights.

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MOST museums have free hours year-round, but they really let loose for the summer, with extended hours, outdoor music, art talks and films that are free or cheaper than a night on the town. Case in point: decently priced cash bars.

As it did last year, the Hammer Museum is waiving admission until Labor Day. The artists in the show "The Societe Anonyme: Modernism for America" (through Aug. 20) read like a who's who in 20th century art. On Thursday nights this month, the "Also I Like to Rock" series showcases indie bands; the focus shifts with the "JazzPop" series in August, which has the all-instrumental Nels Cline Singers on Aug. 17 (www.hammer.ucla.edu).

When the sun goes down, MOCA After Dark on Saturdays livens up the downtown scene with its extended hours, gallery tours, DJs, art workshops, readings and music until midnight for the cost of general museum admission ($8). With the exhibition "Robert Rauschenberg: Combines" on view through Sept. 4, this weekend includes a screening of "Creatures in Odd Places," a film about the artist's affinity for taxidermy. For the less nocturnally inclined, the museum is free every Thursday from 5 to 8 p.m. (www.moca.org).

The Getty Center is free year-round, though parking is $7 -- so get your money's worth by filling your car to capacity. A double dose of Flemish paintings and voluptuous ladies awaits with "Rubens and Brueghel: A Working Friendship" and "Rubens and His Printmakers" (through Sept. 24). Summer Sessions on Saturday evenings in July feature electronica, hip-hop and klezmer rock. And once a month, "Fridays Off the 405" provides an after-work detour with live music and a cash bar. As for the Getty Villa: It's booked all summer, but try (310) 440-7300 for last-minute availability (www.getty.edu).

Catherine Opie's photographs (ending Sept. 3) and killer ocean views (not ending anytime soon) are at Newport Beach's OCMA, free the third Thursday of the month. It's the same day as Orange Crush, an after-hours fete with live bands, DJs and, of course, a cash bar (www.ocma.net).

Face it: Though LACMA's general admission exhibitions are free after 5 p.m. and the second Tuesday of the month, you're going to have to pay $12 to $15 to see the show "David Hockney Portraits." But getting your groove on is free at the Friday Night Jazz series at 5:30 p.m. till December, the Latin Sounds series at 4:30 p.m. Saturdays through Sept. 2 -- and if you like classical, the Sundays Live at 6 p.m. (www.lacma.org).

Other Southland museums with free admission days: Norton Simon (6 to 9 p.m. first Friday of the month), Huntington Library (first Thursdays), Craft and Folk Art Museum (first Wednesdays), Japanese American National Museum (third Thursdays and 5 to 8 p.m. every Thursday), Long Beach Museum of Art (Fridays), Southwest Museum of the American Indian (free all summer), Natural History Museum (first Tuesdays), Pacific Asia Museum (fourth Fridays) and Page Museum at La Brea Tar Pits (first Tuesdays).

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ONLINE

Online

Bargain hunters on blogs and beyond are happy to share the wealth.

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THE Internet is a natural for finding cheap entertainment. Of course, you've got to know where to look: Like L.A. itself, the sites with such information tend to be scattered.

Amy Raymond of Echo Park started her blog Cheapskatin' LA a little more than a year ago as a way to tell her friends about cool stuff. Now she counts her subscribers in the thousands -- "I get a lot of university kids, and a lot of Eastsiders," Raymond says -- as she selects events that tend toward an indie music and art sensibility. That means she's just as likely to pick a free show at the El Rey as she is the monthly gatherings of Dorkbot -- folks who make their own robots (lafreebie.blogspot.com).

One look at Artscene (artscenecal.com/Calendar.html) will tell you there's no shortage of free art gallery openings. The Losanjealous blog's weekly event calendar (losanjealous.com/events) includes random free art events, along with book signings and the offbeat. (Too bad the free Cher convention in Woodland Hills was last weekend.) And Eye Spy LA (eyespyla.com) lists educational, arty and family-friendly events.

Theatergoers can comb through the LAStageTIX weekly half-price ticket listings (theatrela.org), and those wanting to see free TV tapings should visit Free TV Tickets (tvtix.com/schedule.php). A good source for festivals is the L.A. Department of Cultural Affairs guide (culturela.org). And Goldstar Events (goldstarevents.com) offers discounted and free tickets to theater, film, music and sports -- though there is a service fee. And because you'll probably be driving around a lot, look for cheap gas with GasBuddy

(gasbuddy.com).

For those whose tastes run toward the refined, Jim Eninger's weekly Clickable Chamber Music Newsletter (sundayslive.org/newsletter.cfm) can put a little culture in your life -- and most concerts don't cost a cent. Among his extensive listings is the free Henry J. Bruman Summer Chamber Music Festival at UCLA starting Monday -- its lineup includes the young, on-the-rise Calder Quartet on July 31.

On the other end of the spectrum is My Open Bar (la.myopenbar.com/bars.php), which is for those who are lured to free booze the way flies are to honey. Warning: Some may find the language on the site objectionable -- if you do, you probably don't hang out in bars much.

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Times staff writers Chris Barton, Kevin Bronson, Cynthia Dea, Scott Sandell and Chrys Wu and correspondent Pete Metzger contributed to this report.

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."
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