This homey 60-seat black box (up some seriously steep stairs) is a mere block and a half from the subway, and only 15 minutes on the L train from Union Square. The space has become one of the best curated spots in the city; it supports up-and-coming stage talent like William Burke and avant-garde veterans such as Target Margin Theater and Cynthia Hopkins, as well as a variety of performance art and multimedia performances.
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.
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.
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.
Prospect Park's Imagination Playground encourages inventive play with fixtures like a bronze dragon statue that spews water instead of fire, a sculpture of a boy reading while reaching down to pet his dog, cutout animal masks that kids can set their faces in, and a stage with multiple platforms of different heights for little ones to play on. In the summer, programs including storytelling, plays, music and crafts are available.
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.
Interviews and auditions are required at this venerable studio, which was opened in 1969 by Terry Schreiber and counts movie stars Edward Norton and Peter Sarsgaard among its conservatory graduates. Newbies can choose from three beginner classes: Meisner Technique for Beginning Actors ($695 for 12 sessions), On-Camera I ($425 for six sessions) and The Saturday Program ($260 per month) which starts with basic technique and moves on to scene study. The studio also mounts full-fledged productions, too, in case you want to see its students and alumni in action.
Brian Rogers and Sheila Lewandowski founded this 5,000-square-foot performance 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 place (buy your chocolate-chip cookies at the box office), and the spot won an Obie for its programming, which tends toward the highly physical, the interdisciplinary and the avant-garde.
This classic 1903 Art Nouveau house has seen many changes on the Main Stem over the last century: vaudeville, classics, the Ziegfeld Follies (for more than two decades) and the drastic decline of the theater district during the Great Depression, and again in the 1970s and ’80s. Renovated and reopened, in 1997, the New Amsterdam soon became home to the Disney smash hit The Lion King. Since 2006, Mary Poppins has been wowing children and adults there. (The Lion King moved to the Minksoff.) The theater is operated by Disney Theatrical Productions.
This dedicated comedy theater exudes a distinctly Chicago vibe, from its DIY aesthetic to its performers, many of whom are former denizens of the Windy City. Even the local players prefer theatrical or character-driven improv to the premise-based variety, and they put their love of the craft before any professional interests.
Alicia Keys, Martha Graham, Jackson Pollack and Denzel Washington are among the artists who have performed, trained or taught workshops and classes at Abrons Art Center/Henry Street Settlement, an arts venue in the far reaches of the Lower East Side. The complex includes the 300-seat Playhouse (a pretty, blond-wood auditorium with a proscenium stage), the 100-seat blackbox Experimental Theater and another 99-seat Underground Theater, all of which are for rent.
At this retro storefront theater, kids sit cross-legged on mats in front of the stage while grown-ups hunker down on bleachers behind them. All the productions, which are largely adaptations of well-known fairy and folk tales, are written by the theater’s artistic director, Nicolas Coppola.
There aren’t many entertainment options along Tenth Avenue, but one is worth the trek: A jewel box of a theater with 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 monthly variety show Showgasm is an excellent sampler pack of rising talents.
Some theaters get their names from composers or producers—even from dead drama critics. but the Music Box is named after a specific show. In 1921, producer Sam H. Harris honored a deal he made with hit-maker Irving Berlin and christened his new venue after Berlin's new tuner, The Music Box Revue. Since then, the 1,099-seat house, with an elegant limestone facade, has hosted a variety of musical and dramatic attractions. The 1930s at the Music Box were George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart’s decade; they premiered several comedies there, and Hart called it a dream theater. In recent seasons, the Music Box was home to August: Osage County.
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.
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.