Attending Broadway shows is tons of fun, but those who want to ditch the tourist crowds and immerse themselves in New York City’s real community theater action have a whole other dynamic world to explore.
As a city full of actors working toward the next gig, the Big Apple has an independent community theater scene like nowhere else on Earth. In fact, some of the hits that later became Broadway smashes were born in New York community theater.
Ready to check out some serious high-level performances like a real New Yorker? Here are seven great places to get started!
St. Bart’s Players
Founded in 1927, St. Bart’s Players is the longest running community theater group in the city, and it is well known for its high-caliber productions and affordable prices. The non-profit theater group runs out of the historic St. Bartholomew’s Church in midtown Manhattan, making it easy to add a show to any itinerary in NYC.
• 325 Park Avenue at 51st Street
Theater for the New City
Internationally famous for its devotion to promoting and developing new works that often take off and go on tour, the Theater for the New City is a Greenwich Village cultural institution without equal. Founded in 1970 and now one of the most highly awarded community theater companies in the world, the Theater for the New City is well worth checking out when you are in town.
• 155 First Avenue
The Manhattan Theater Club
One of the largest theater organizations in the city, the Manhattan Theater Club produces a stellar lineup of both Broadway and off-Broadway shows all year long. From monologues to classic works to premier shows by up and coming playwrights, the theater offerings will give you a taste of what’s hot in NYC at the moment.
• 261 West 47th Street
Theater of the Oppressed
Performing in public spaces during the summer and in several community venues throughout the year, the Theater of the Oppressed has fast become one of the most popular theater organizations in the Big Apple. Presenting original works created by the actors themselves, most of whom are from underserved populations in the city, the Theater of the Oppressed is decidedly political, and it uses the art form to explore the causes and solutions to social problems that affect us all.
• 758 Eighth Avenue, Suite 300
Known for innovative, genre-bending works that often go on to become long-running hits, Ars Nova is a true superstar of the New York independent theater scene. Located in Midtown, this is an excellent alternative to the Broadway scene happening just around the corner. It is ideal for anyone who wants to see what’s ahead of the curve in the theater world.
• 511 W. 54th Street
Elevator Repair Service
Founded in 1991, Elevator Repair Service is an ensemble theater that produces a full calendar of original works each year and performs at various venues around the city. Many of their hits have gone on full tours around the USA, so it’s worthwhile to pop in and check out what’s currently in production.
• 47 Great Jones Street, 3rd Floor
The Wooster Group
Founded in 1975 by legendary playwright Spalding Gray and a core of actors including Willem Dafoe, the Wooster Group is one of New York City’s most respected community theater groups. Besides performances at its original space in the SoHo district, the Wooster Group also performs in larger venues across the city and the world.
• 33 Wooster Street