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Broadway and West 42nd Street in the heart of New York City’s theater district

New York

New York City Theater: Bold Shows and Big Variety

By: Idoia Gkikas

Joe Buglewicz
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  • States:
    New York

New York City is known for its exceptional theater, eclectic performing arts scene and big Broadway productions.

Any day of the week, any time of year, visitors can see anything from a Tony Award-winning musical to an edgy underground production. Check out this guide to New York City’s booming theater scene.

Broadway and Beyond

Seeing a famous Broadway show, such as “The Lion King,” “Wicked” and “Hamilton,”  is one of the most iconic experiences in New York City. Broadway is synonymous with theater. At the beginning of the 20th century, most theaters were on Broadway, the street. Today, however, seeing a Broadway show has less to do with location than it does with the size of the theater. A show doesn’t have to be on Broadway the street to be considered a Broadway show. What’s more: Off-Broadway doesn’t mean lower quality – “Rent” started out off-Broadway – simply, that the theater size is smaller. And an Off-Off-Broadway show may be even smaller (seating fewer than 100 audience members), but it is often where the cutting-edge work happens.

Beyond the theater district, the Harbor Lights Theater Company in Staten Island brings outstanding professional theater to the dynamic North Shore neighborhood. Past productions include “Rent,” “Driving Miss Daisy,” “Oliver!” and “The King and I.” In Brooklyn, the 150-year-old Brooklyn Academy of Music covers world-class film, opera, dance, literary talks, live music and plays, including productions by and for children.

Brooklyn Academy of Music, a venue for adventurous performances

Brooklyn Academy of Music, a venue for adventurous performances
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Kate Glicksberg

Experimental Theater

This cultural mecca is bursting with theater experiences. If you’re looking for what could potentially be the next big thing, La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club in Manhattan’s East Village is known for some of the most exciting and innovative off-off-Broadway productions. Philip Glass, Amy Sedaris and Blue Man Group all got their start at La MaMa. In Long Island City, Queens, find the Chocolate Factory Theater, a unique by-artists, for-artists production space that supports edgy acts from start to finish.

Performance Art

Performance art in New York is plentiful, thought-provoking and diverse. The Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance (BAAD!) invites an intersectional perspective, exploring topics of race, gender, sexual identity, the differently abled and more. Check out The Brick Theater in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, an avant-garde space that hosts festivals, performance series and multiple award-winning theater premieres.  

Culturally Inclusive

As the most culturally diverse city in the world, New York City reflects the contributions of its myriad citizens in its theater offerings. The Thalia Hispanic Theatre in Queens is the area’s only Spanish-English bilingual theater, representing work from around the Spanish-speaking world, from Spain to Uruguay. In Brooklyn, stars Samuel L. Jackson, Debbie Allen and Carol Woods have performed at the Billie Holiday Theatre, an independent black theater treasured by locals. Expect dynamic and affordable ticket prices.

Getting There

To reach New York City from international destinations, fly into John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in Queens or Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) in nearby Newark, New Jersey.