Off-Broadway: How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways!
One could argue that the richest place to see theatre in New York City is Off-Broadway. First let’s clarify the terminology. It is not geography that determines what is ON Broadway or OFF, it is house size, or how many seats the theatre has. Off Broadway theatres have between 100-499 seats. In New York, anything more is considered Broadway, anything fewer is Off-Off Broadway.
A number of factors contribute to the bounty of quality theatre found in these venues. So I am going to sing the glories of Off-Broadway as an entity, an experience, a concept, and give you several good reasons to consider becoming an Off-Broadway regular!
You May See the Next Broadway Hit in the Making!
MANY of your favorite Broadway musicals have gotten their start Off-Broadway! Some notable examples include Hamilton (The Public Theatre), Rent (New York Theatre Workshop), Dear Evan Hansen (Second Stage), and Spring Awakening (Atlantic Theatre Company). In 2019 my favorite musicals (not counting Broadway’s Hadestown which I first saw Off-Broadway in 2016!), were Dave Malloy’s Octet at Signature Theatre Company and David Henry Hwang’s Soft Power at The Public. Be among the first to see a future Broadway hit – you’ll feel proud to have been in the room where it happened.
Theatre on a Mission
A large portion of Off-Broadway is comprised of non-profit theatre companies who produce a season of plays every year. Each has a mission statement and without exception that mission includes giving voice to emerging artists and bringing quality theatre to the public. These spaces launch careers, encourage experimentation, and foster creative growth for artists on the stage and behind the scenes. They also take good care of their audiences by providing them with rewarding theatre moments, often at a lower price than Broadway, making the arts more accessible for more people.
Membership Has its Privileges
The very best way to assure that you see theatre is to become a subscriber or member at ones of these institutions. Depending on the venue, you can pay a minimal price for membership, which gives you early access to tickets among other perks, or you can subscribe, pre-paying for your tickets at a discounted price. In any given season you will see a variety of plays and open yourself up to experiences you may not have sought out otherwise. If you have a theatre lover in your life, a membership or subscription would make a great gift!
More Awards Shows
Granted, this might be niche. But I love seeing nominated shows and performances, and checking them off my list (joy!) so I thought I’d mention it, especially for those of you who are nodding your head in agreement right now. The Obie Awards honor Off Broadway exclusively and The Drama Desk Awards include both Broadway and Off-Broadway theatre. Bonus perk: For most theatre awards shows (including the Tony’s), you can attend simply by purchasing a ticket!
Safety in (fewer) Numbers
If you are reluctant to return to theatre because of Covid-19, Off-Broadway may be a good place to start because of the smaller crowd size. In general, I have found safety protocols to be carefully followed at all theatres in NYC. Proof of vaccination is required for entry and masks are worn at all times.
“Off Broadway” is Local Theatre
While Off Broadway is technically an NYC thing, I assure you that wherever you live there is a local non-profit theatre company working hard to bring you quality theatre and they would very much welcome your support! YOU will benefit greatly by becoming a regular. It is a community that will welcome you with open arms and shower you with inspiration.
Options, Options, Options
The number of Off Broadway shows and venues is exhaustive! HERE you can find a list of Off-Broadway plays currently running or coming soon. (I link to Playbill a lot because it is a great resource!)
Take a look, try not to get overwhelmed, and see what appeals to you! Speaking of which …
My List is LOOOONG…
Most Off Broadway shows have short runs because the theatres have a set calendar for their season. I am already mourning a few that closed before I got the chance to see them. But, there are still plenty left on my ever-growing “hot list” of shows to see and I am happy to share a few!
Confederates by Dominique Morriseau at Signature Theatre Company
I am a fan of Morriseau’s work and of Signature Theatre so this a win win! (Fun fact: Jen and I saw her excellent play Skelton Crew at Westport Playhouse two seasons ago and it is now making its Broadway debut with a cast led by Phylicia Rashad – opening soon!)
Kimberly Akimbo by David Lindsay-Abaire and Jeanine Tesori at Atlantic Theatre Company
I just became a subscriber to Atlantic Theatre Company because of this show. This new musical has a lot of good buzz and was extended to January 15th so get your ticket!
Tambo & Bones by Dave Harris at Playwright’s Horizons
I am intrigued by the unconventional form of this play about two characters stuck in a minstrel show and excited to be introduced to this playwright and poet through his major NYC debut!
The 2022 Season at Encores! at New York City Center
Encores! is known for staging revivals of American musicals with a fresh take. In 2022 they are doing The Life (directed and reimagined by the fabulous Billy Porter) The Tap Dance Kid (with brand new tap sequences – I LOVE seeing tap dancing live!) and Into the Woods (Starring Sara Bareilles, Christian Borle and Heather Headley among others!) Sign me up for all three!
This is just a small sampling! Off Broadway has so much to offer and all of these theatres and theatre artists are working hard to get back on their feet after being shuttered for well over a year. Support them, enjoy yourself and tell me what you see. I definitely want to know!