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Cheap theater: Where to enjoy affordable shows in NYC

Don’t limit yourself to Broadway bombast, people. There are plenty of cheap theater options out there.

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Yes, we know. Big-ticket shows can be astronomically expensive. But that doesn’t mean that penny-pinchers can’t enjoy a fantasticplay. Discover the best cheap theater offerings in town by following our handy guide.

RECOMMENDED: Full list of cheap things to do in NYC

  • Theater
  • Off Broadway
  • Noho
  • price 1 of 4

The civic-minded Oskar Eustis is artistic director of this local institution dedicated to the work of new American playwrights but also known for its Shakespeare productions (Shakespeare in the Park). The building, an Astor Place landmark, has five stages, plays host to the annual Under the Radar festival, nurtures productions in its Lab series and is also home to the Joe’s Pub music venue.

Broadway Comedy Club
  • Theater
  • Hell's Kitchen
  • price 2 of 4

Called the New York Improv when it opened in 1963, this club showcased legends such as Bill Cosby, Andy Kaufman and Robin Williams during its first stint. After being closed for years, former collaborators opened this basement joint a few blocks from the original, and they showcase TV faces and other regulars from the club circuit. 

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  • Theater
  • Off-Off Broadway
  • East Village
  • price 1 of 4

This tiny, 45-seat basement space vibrates with the energy of punky St. Marks Place, especially when one of the shows decides to open up the Beer Pantry (for real!) and avail itself of the space's brand-new liquor license. Folding chairs, a bathroom that's basically backstage and creaky wooden risers complete the picture of a perfectly downtown space that hasn't sold out to the Man. Recently, the hit show MilkMilkLemonade wreaked merry havoc here.

  • Theater
  • Off Broadway
  • Central Park
  • price 0 of 4

The Delacorte Theater in Central Park is the fair-weather sister of the Public Theater. When not producing Shakespeare in the East Village, the Public offers the best of the Bard outdoors during Shakespeare in the Park (May–August). Free tickets (two per person) are distributed at both theaters at 1pm on the day of the performance. It's usually good to begin waiting around 9am, although the line can start forming as early as 6am when big-name stars are on the bill. You can also enter an online lottery for tickets.

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  • Theater
  • Financial District
  • price 2 of 4

At 640 seats, this space, owned and operated by Pace University, is the largest venue in downtown Manhattan. From the Tribeca Film Festival to presidential debates, the Schimmel Center makes the most of its flexability and modernity. Visiting acts may rent out the space, like London’s Globe Theatre did in 2009, but they’ll have to vie for space with Inside the Actor’s Studio. James Lipton’s popular interview series has been filming here since 2005.

Apollo Theater
  • Theater
  • Musicals
  • Harlem
  • price 4 of 4

RECOMMENDED: 50 best New York attractions Visitors may think they know this venerable theater from TV’s Showtime at the Apollo. But as the saying goes, the small screen adds ten pounds: The city’s home of R&B and soul is actually quite cozy. Known for launching the careers of Ella Fitzgerald, Lauryn Hill and D’Angelo, among others at its legendary Amateur Night competition, the Apollo continues to mix veteran talents like Dianne Reeves with younger artists such as the Roots and Lykke Li. 

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59E59 Theaters
  • Theater
  • Off Broadway
  • Upper East Side
  • price 3 of 4

This chic, state-of-the-art venue, which comprises an Off Broadway space and two smaller theaters, is home to a lot of worthy programming, such as the annual Brits Off Broadway festival, which imports some of the U.K.’s best work for brief summer runs. The venue boasts three separate playing spaces. Theater A, on the ground floor, seats 196 people; upstairs are the 98-seat Theater B and a 70-seat black-box space, Theater C.

  • Theater
  • Performing arts space
  • DUMBO
  • price 2 of 4

The adventurous theatergoer’s alternative to BAM, St. Ann’s Warehouse offers an eclectic lineup of theater and music; recent shows have included high-level work by the Wooster Group and National Theatre of Scotland. In 2015 it moved to the impressive Tobacco Warehouse, built in the 1870s as an inspection center for tobacco and newly renovated for theatrical use.

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  • Theater
  • Off-Off Broadway
  • Chelsea
  • price 1 of 4

Interviews and auditions are required at this venerable studio, which was opened in 1969 by Terry Schreiber and counts Edward Norton among its conservatory graduates. Newbies can choose from beginner classes like Meisner Technique I ($695 for 12 sessions), On-Camera I ($425 for six sessions) and Beginning Technique ($550 for eight sessions). The studio also mounts full-fledged productions, too, in case you want to see its students and alumni in action.

  • Theater
  • Central Park
  • price 1 of 4

Imported to the U.S. from Sweden in 1876, this venue is the coziest in all of NYC. Employing handmade marionettes and beautiful sets, the resident company mounts citified versions of well-known stories.

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  • Theater
  • Off Broadway
  • Hell's Kitchen
  • price 2 of 4

Formerly a movie multiplex, this center—one of the last bastions of commercial Off Broadway in New York—impresses with its shiny, space-age interior and five stages, were it presents such campy revues as The Gazillion Bubble Show.

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  • Theater
  • Off Broadway
  • Hell's Kitchen
  • price 2 of 4

In 1962, the reverend of St. Clement’s Episcopal Church entered into a rather unusual union of theater and religion that still holds tight today. Modeled after the guild chapels of 16th-century England, this 151-seat Off-Broadway house—which has been home to world premieres like Mamet’s American Buffalo, and companies like the New Group and Red Bull Theatre—still holds regular religious services. On Sundays, an altar is placed on the set of whatever production is currently running, and worship is conducted.

Nuyorican Poets Cafe
  • Theater
  • Performing arts space
  • East Village
  • price 1 of 4

This 30-year-old community arts center, deep in the heart of the East Village, is known for its long history of raucous poetry slams, jam sessions and anything-goes open mikes.

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Connelly Theater
  • Theater
  • East Village
  • price 1 of 4

This theater looks like what it once was: a 19th-century school auditorium. Painted a lovely Russian blue and still echoing slightly with teenagers past, the 99-seat Connelly has a pretty proscenium and pressed-tin ceiling—a surprising jewel box well off the beaten track. Productions that have made a stir there include Anne Washburn’s ghost-infested Apparition and Lucy Thurber’s Monstrosity, which made full use of the balcony and the seemingly limitless space.

Joyce Theater
  • Theater
  • Chelsea
  • price 1 of 4

The intimate space, once a cinema, is a fine setting for dance. Of the 472 seats at the Joyce, there’s not a single bad one. Companies and choreographers who present work here, including Ballet Hispanico, David Parsons and Doug Varone, tend to be more conventional than experimental. The Joyce also hosts out-of-town crowd-pleasers like Pilobolus Dance Theatre. During the summer, when many theaters are dark, the Joyce continues its programming. At the Joyce Soho, emerging companies present work nearly every weekend. • Other location: Joyce Soho, 155 Mercer St between W Houston and Prince Sts (212-431-9233). Subway: B, D, F, M to Broadway–Lafayette St; N, R to Prince St; 6 to Bleecker St. $15–$20. Cash only.

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HERE
  • Theater
  • Off Broadway
  • West Village
  • price 1 of 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.

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  • Theater
  • Broadway
  • Midtown West
  • price 4 of 4

The Lyceum is Broadway's oldest continually operating legitimate space. Built by producer-manager David Frohman in 1903, it was purchased in 1940 by a conglomerate of producers which included George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart (co-authors of You Can't Take It with You and other comedies). In 1950, the Shuberts took ownership of the Lyceum, and still operate it. Alan Bates played the lovely 922-seat playhouse in John Osborne's Look Back in Anger (1957), and four years later, he returned in Harold Pinter's The Caretaker (1961). More recently, the venue was home to I Am My Own Wife and Neil LaBute's Reasons to Be Pretty.

New Ohio Theatre
  • Theater
  • Off-Off Broadway
  • West Village
  • price 1 of 4

After losing the lease on his Soho space in 2010, after nearly three decades there, Robert Lyons moved to the landmarked Archive building in teh West Village. The new space, home to the summer Ice Factory Festival and much more, remains an indispensable theatrical crucible.

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  • Theater
  • Off-Off Broadway
  • Hell's Kitchen
  • price 1 of 4

The Tank, an adventurous multimedia performing-arts collaborative and talent incubator, spent years wandering from venue to venue, including a long stint in a small upstairs space on 46th Street. In 2017, it moved into the Midtown digs formerly occupied by Abingdon Theatre Company. Its two main spaces are the 98-seat June Havoc Theater and the 56-seat Dorothy Strelsin Theater. Rosalind Grush and Meghan Finn currently serve as the company's artistic directors.

Abrons Arts Center/Henry Street Settlement
  • Theater
  • Off-Off Broadway
  • Lower East Side
  • price 1 of 4

Camp is still in session at Abrons. However, there are COVID safety protocols. Masks must be worn at all times and everyone age 12 and older must show proof of vaccination. Campers will enjoy weekly water activities, weekly field trips, and will receive daily instruction in dance, music, theater, and visual arts.

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St. James Theatre
  • Theater
  • Broadway
  • Midtown West
  • price 4 of 4

This 1,709-seat jewel box on West 44th Street (just next door to popular watering hole Angus McIndoe's) was where The Producers revitalized American musical comedy in 2001. It is suprisingly intimate for one of the larger houses.

Metropolitan Opera House (at Lincoln Center)
  • Theater
  • Performing arts space
  • Upper West Side
  • price 4 of 4

The grandest of the Lincoln Center buildings, the Met is a spectacular place to experience opera and ballet. The space hosts the Metropolitan Opera from September to May, with major visiting companies appearing in summer. The majestic theater also showcases works from a range of international dance companies, from the Paris Opéra Ballet to the Kirov Ballet. In spring, the Met is home to American Ballet Theatre, which presents full-length classic story ballets, works by contemporary choreographers and special performances and workshops for children. RECOMMENDED: 101 best things do in NYC

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  • Theater
  • Broadway
  • Midtown West
  • price 4 of 4

Most Broadway houses originate from the 1920s or ’30s, but the Minskoff opened its doors in 1973 with a lavish revival of the 1919 musical Irene, starring Debbie Reynolds. Today, it’s home to The Lion King. The Minskoff is distinguished by altitude: It’s located on the third floor of One Astor Plaza, a 55-story office tower. With 1,654 seats, it's the third largest house on Broadway. The lobby features hand-painted, gold-leaf-covered sculpted tableaus that adorn interior walls and showcase its panoramic views of Broadway.

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