Legendary Off-Broadway Theaters worth a visit
At present, New York City’s Off-Broadway scene is as diverse, rich, and full of innovative talent as ever. Offering a more intimate theatre experience, these smaller venues give access to fresh, bold voices as they use their work to address personal, political, and social issues of the day. At the same time, they represent the legacy of writers, directors, and actors whose pioneering work premiered on the small stage. Thinking about what to see on your next play date? Here are five legendary Off-Broadway theaters to check out.
New York Theatre Workshop, 79 E 4th St
In 1993, Jonathan Larson debuted Rent – a rock opera about artists living in NYC amidst the dark backdrop of poverty, addiction, and AIDS – at the New York Theatre Workshop and the rest is history. Established in 1979, this East Village venue has been the incubator for groundbreaking theatre productions with many eventually making it to Broadway. Getting to see a work in its nascent stages when the creative energies of the artists are raw and explorative is a theatre experience like no other. Award-winning playwrights Amy Herzog and Marcus Gardley have shown their work here.
Astor Place Theatre, 434 Lafayette St
Astor Place Theatre has a remarkable history. Originally the home of the Astor and Vanderbilt families, it became a theater in 1965. The inaugural production marked the NYC stage debut of a then unknown actor named Al Pacino. Astor Place went on to introduce works by emerging and experimental playwrights. In 1991, Blue Man Group unveiled their spectacular art-meets-music-meets-comedy performance to the world here. Today, Astor Place Theatre serves as the Blue Man Group’s permanent home.
Cherry Lane Theatre, 38 Commerce St
Established in 1924, Cherry Lane Theatre is the longest running Off-Broadway theater in NYC. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tennessee Williams, Lorraine Hansberry, Edward Albee, Sam Shepard, and David Mament start a list of great American writers who have brought their works to this stage. Past productions have featured acting legends like Barbara Streisand, James Earl Jones, and Gene Hackman, among others. Cherry Lane’s Obie Award-winning Mentor Project focuses on fostering the next generation of dramatists, teaming up emerging and established playwrights. You can check out the fruits of their labor in the Mentor Project Showcase.
Orpheum Theatre, 126 2nd Ave
Today, this East Village Theater is the resident home of Stomp!, the trashcan beating musical sensation that inspired many of us to pick up a pot and spoon and bang away much to our parents’ aggravations. After 20 years, the offbeat (or would it be more appropriate to say ‘in beat’?) show continues to make a symphony out of the cacophonic noises that hum through the city day and night. Before Stomp!, Orpheum Theatre presented notable productions such as the 1962 revival of Cole Porter’s Anything Goes, Little Shop of Horrors, and David Mamet’s Oleanna.
Lucille Lortel Theatre, 121 Christopher St
This West Village venue was built in 1926 as a movie theater and joined New York’s Off-Broadway theaters in the 1950s. In 1955, financier gave the building to his wife, actress-producer Lucille Lortel, as an anniversary gift. Noteworthy productions include the landmark play The Threepenny Opera, which went on to win the Tony Award for Best Off-Broadway show, Michael Weller’s Moonchildren, Robert Harling’s Steel Magnolias, and William Finn’s Falsettoland. The Lucille Lortel Theatre is home to The Playwrights Sidewalk, a permanent monument to all the greats whose works have been performed at the Theater. During the 2017-2018 season, you can catch productions by the MCC Theatre.