An Aspiring Theater Lover’s Guide to Off-Broadway Skip to main content

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An Aspiring Theater Lover’s Guide to Off-Broadway




New York and theater are pretty synonymous for me,” says Erica, WestHouse’s biggest resident theater fan. “And comparing Broadway to Off-Broadway is kind of like comparing a blockbuster to an indie film.”


“Of course, it’s the Broadway theaters that get the majority of tourist, and even local, attention. But when I have friends in town I take them to the smaller playhouses. Your chances of seeing authentic, surprising material are just so much higher when you travel outside of that four-block Broadway radius.”


To be clear, Erica doesn’t suggest skipping over the big-name houses entirely: “I love Broadway, but if you come to the city to experience the heart of New York’s theater, you have to branch out. Seeing a mix of Broadway and Off-Broadway shows will help give you a better picture of the theater community as a whole.”


Though most of the Off-Broadway theaters won’t have the same budget as the bigger venues, that’s all part of the appeal according to Erica: “The focus ends up being on the message of the piece, rather than the visual effects. It’s a much more intimate and thoughtful experience, which is what keeps drawing me back to these theaters.”


Here, Erica breaks down her go-to recommendations for a great Off-Broadway experience:


The Big Players

“Not all Off-Broadway theaters are small, black-box spaces. The Public Theater is one the biggest Off-Broadway theaters in the city. It’s put on some extremely successful shows with big name stars, and has a good variety of both classic and new works. If you’re looking for a theater to bridge the gap between Broadway and Off-Broadway - this is the place to start. Another one is Playwrights Horizons, which shows exclusively new pieces by emerging artists. There’s also the Lincoln Center Theater, which includes the Mitzi Newhouse, Vivian Beaumont and Claire Tow theaters, has a wide selection of plays and musicals and is the largest non-for-profit theater in the country.”


The Downtown Players

“Downtown Manhattan is an amazing playground for Off-Broadway. During peak season, you can spend a weekend hopping between theaters. Vineyard, Rattlestick, Soho Repa, Cherry Lane, and Barrow Street are some of my favorites and they all have a fantastic line-up of popular and new works.”


The Brooklyn Players

“Both BAM and St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn have a reputation for being the go-to houses for touring productions from Europe. Plus, BAM has an impressive repertoire of dance, film and opera productions too.” 


The Classic Players

“I always get a thrill from seeing new works onstage because you never know which one is going to ‘be a hit.’ You might be in the audience for the next big thing, but then again, probably not. Going Off-Broadway is a roll-of-the-dice in that way. So if you prefer to know what you’re getting when you walk-in, try the Classic Stage Company, which does contemporary versions of classic, well-known plays.”


The Underground Players

“Sometimes you want to see something a little more out-of-the-box and experimental. Ars Nova in midtown and the Bushwick Starr in Brooklyn are the best alternatives to a basic theater experience.”