Best Off-Off Broadway venues

They're small, cheap and out of control—the city's coolest experimental stages. (Click through to see what's on at each.)

0

Comments

Add +

Ars Nova

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 1/4

There aren’t many entertainment options along Tenth Avenue, but one is worth the trek: A jewel box of a theater stages a heady, well-selected repertory of comedy, cabaret and music shows in an environment that’s focused more on the performance than on the cash register at the bar. The schedule is erratic, so call before heading out. The semiregular Jewcy provides some kosher laughs for Jews and those who wish they were.

  1. 511 W 54th St, (between Tenth and Eleventh Aves)
More info

The Brick

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 1/4

This scrappy 70-seat space—an erstwhile garage—popped into the theatrical scene in 2002 squished into a vanishingly tiny spot on Metropolitan Avenue in Williamsburg. Its founders, Robert Honeywell and Michael Gardner, have maintained a rattling schedule of tartly themed summer festivals (The Moral Values Festival), pieces by low-budget, high-concept avant-gardists like the Debate Society and Ian W. Hill, and works helmed by Honeywell and Gardner themselves.

  1. 575 Metropolitan Ave, (between Lorimer St and Union Ave)
More info

The Bushwick Starr

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 1/4

Don't get nervous at the "Bushwick" in the name: This comfortable 60-seat black box (up some seriously steep stairs) is a mere block and a half from the subway, and only 15 minutes from Union Square. The space is largely a rental venue, attracting avant-garde fare like Target Margin's Tennessee Williams festival and a variety of performance art and theatrical performances.

  1. 207 Starr St, (between Irving and Wyckoff Aves)
More info

The Chocolate Factory

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

Brian Rogers and Sheila Lewandowski founded this 5000-square-foot perfomance venue in Long Island City in 2005, converting a onetime hardware store into two spaces: a low-ceilinged downstairs room and a loftier, brighter upstairs whitebox. The Factory is not for rent: Rogers curates his season, inviting artists (from midcareer playwrights like Mac Wellman to rising directors like Alice Reagan) onboard—and the space pays them. It's a welcoming spot (buy your chocolate chip cookies at the box office), and the spot won an Obie for its programming, which tends towards the highly physical, the interdisciplinary and the avant-garde.

  1. 5-49 49th Ave, (at Vernon Blvd)
More info

Dixon Place

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 1/4

More than 22 years after it started hosting experimental performances in a loft on the Bowery, this plucky organization has finally opened its gorgeous new space a few blocks away on the Lower East Side. A lounge, mainstage theater and studio all support the work of emerging artists.

  1. 161A Chrystie St, (between Delancey and Rivington Sts)
More info

Flea Theater

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 1/4

Founded in 1997, Jim Simpson’s cozy, well-appointed black-box venue has presented avant-garde experimentation (such as the work of Mac Wellman) and politically provocative satires (by the likes of A.R. Gurney and Jonathan Reynolds). A 40-seat basement theatre is home to the Flea’s resident young acting company, the Bats.

  1. 41 White St, (between Broadway and Church St)
More info

HERE

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 1/4

After a recent refurbishment, this downtown stalwart is now one of the most comfortable experimental spaces, what with its cozy lobby café (1 Dominick) and relatively impressive multimedia capacity. The upstairs space—long, wide and low—has played host to recent smashes like Taylor Mac’s epic The Lily’s Revenge, while the downstairs 70-seat black box sees new works by everyone from Karinne Keithley to Tina Satter. HERE’s strength lies in its come-one-come-all attitude, its absurdly generous grant and commissioning programs, and a genuine warmth that is largely thanks to the venue’s doyenne and founder, Kristin Marting, and the community of artists who call HERE a second home.

  1. 145 Sixth Ave, (between Dominick and Spring Sts)
More info

Incubator Arts Project at St. Mark’s Church

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 1/4

After 20 years upstairs at the historic St. Mark's Church-in-the-Bowery, Richard Foreman's Ontological-Hysteric Theater—famous for its baroquely designed avant-garde productions—will cede control to the Incubator, the adventurous developmental series with an eye for the best in local experimental theater. Tina Satter, Theater of a Two-Headed Calf and Target Margin have all done work here recently, working around the space's crazy, asymmetrical shape and weirdly placed columns to make some of the season's most exciting work.

  1. 131 E 10th St, (at Second Ave)
More info

Kraine Theater

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 1/4

Part of the gaggle of theaters on East 4th Street, the 99-seat Kraine is part of the loosely affiliated Horse Trade theaters (which also include the Red Room and UNDER St. Marks), where irreverent, independent work bubbles incessantly. The venue—a sweet proscenium with creaky, back-crippling red velvet seats—can also be rented, so it's difficult to pin the spot down in terms of a unified aesthetic.

  1. 85 E 4th St, (between Bowery and Second Ave), 10003
More info

La MaMa E.T.C.

  • Rated as: 4/5

Walk into this revolution-red theater—with its narrow First Floor Theater, its spectacularly barnlike next-door Ellen Stewart Theatre and the groovy attic Club Theater—and you are transported back in time to the New York scene's ’60s heyday. The mama herself, Ellen Stewart, first opened La MaMa's doors in 1961, and she has since produced major figures like Tadeusz Kantor, Andrei Serban and Ping Chong, along with younger multicultural, dance-theater and avant-garde artists, as well as her own exuberant riffs on classical myth.

  1. 66 E 4th St, (between Bowery and Second Ave)
More info

New Ohio Theatre

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 1/4

Having lost the lease on his Soho space in 2010, after nearly three decades there, Robert Lyons moves his indispensable theatrical crucible (home to the summer Ice Factory Festival and much more) to the landmarked Archive building that formerly housed the Wings Theater.

  1. 154 Christopher St, (between Greenwich and Washington Sts)
More info

Theater for the New City

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 1/4

Although the institution has been around in some incarnation since 1971, the sprawling cement complex was only converted from its former state as a WPA building in 1986, and its four stages have been chock-full of experimental, politically conscious theater ever since. Many of the shows—albeit offbeat—are appropriate for children.

  1. 155 First Ave, (between 9th and 10th Sts)
More info

Users say

0 comments