Broadway and Off Broadway productions may get most of the attention, but to get a true sense of the range and diversity of New York theater, you need to look to the smaller productions known as Off-Off Broadway. Experimental and avant-garde plays, especially, tend to thrive in New York's best Off-Off Broadway venues; that's where you'll find many of the city's most challenging and original pieces, and get early looks at major talents. There are approximately 200 Off-Off stages in New York, from downtown Manhattan to the far reaches of the boroughs, mostly with fewer than 99 seats. The runs there are usually short, and relatively affordable; while cheap Broadway tickets can be hard to find, most Off-Off Broadway shows are in the $15–$25 range. Here are some of the current shows that hold the most promise.
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Off-Off Broadway shows in NYC
Sylvia Khoury's drama sets its sights on the strangeness of drone warfare, looking at both a young Pakistani woman and the American drone pilot who is observing her. William Carden directs the premiere for Ensemble Studio Theatre, which helped develop the play through its Youngblood program.
Hip-hop androids travel the universe spreading peace, love and beatboxing in this Afrofuturist one-man concert, written and performed by Darian Dauchan. Andrew Scoville directs the show, which is presented by the Bushwick Starr and the solo-friendly All for One Theater.
The Night Shift, which describes itself as a “working class theater” group, hosts this inebriated monthly reading of Shakespearean monologues. Want to see if you can recite Hamlet’s soliloquy after a few brews? Step up to the mic—or just sit back and soak in the iambs.
The Flea's Season of Womyn kicks off with the premiere of Steph Del Rosso's drama, in which a woman tries to fill the various physical holes she feels after a painful breakup. Resident director Marina McClure helms a cast comprising members of the Bats.
In the brutal 1964 racial allegory Dutchman, by LeRoi Jones (later known as Amiri Baraka), a white woman and a black man share a highly fraught encounter on a New York City subway train. Director Christopher-Rashee Stevenson and Theatre of War offer an experimental reconstruction.
The seasoned downtown experimenalists of Talking Band return with a musical-theater piece by Ellen Maddow, featuring Tom Nelis and Paul Zimet as scientists who share an intellectual bromance. Ellie Heyman (Beardo) directs the world premiere.
Michael A. Jones's bioplay centers on the life and career of Negro Leagues star Josh Gibson, a mighty slugger who died a few months before the color line was broken by Jackie Robinson. Bette Howard directs the play, which TNC is producing in honor of Black History Month.