The Best Off-Broadway Theaters Around New York City


New York City has dozens of Off-Broadway theaters located arounf the city. (PHOTO BY HANA HIGGS/ THE OBSERVER)
New York City has dozens of Off-Broadway theaters located arounf the city. (PHOTO BY HANA HIGGS/ THE OBSERVER)

Everyone knows about Broadway, but even the most famous shows had to start somewhere else. Hits like “Rent” and “Hamilton” got their start off-Broadway at local theaters right here in New York City. Off-Broadway theaters are the greatest places to see up-and-coming productions that may go on to become major hits.  These are four off-Broadway theaters that every arts enthusiast should know about.

The Public Theater started in 1954 by producing free Shakespeare reenactments around the city, and opened its first official venue in 1967. Today, the company still produces free Shakespeare in the Park shows every summer and prides itself in putting on a wide variety of plays and musicals, ranging from classics to contemporary pieces. This season, the theater is producing several shows, including “Women of a Certain Age” which starts Nov. 4, “Party People” which starts Nov. 1, “Plenty,” “Sweat,” “Joan of Arc: Into the Fire,” “Tiny Beautiful Things” and more. Over the years, this theater has won a total of 54 Tony Awards and has been recognized with many other awards. In 2006, Meryl Streep worked with this theater, starring in their production of the play “Mother Courage and Her Children.” The theater’s most famous productions, both of which made the transfer off-Broadway to the Great White Way to huge success, are “Fun Home” and “Hamilton.” For this reason, The Public theatre has been nicknamed the “Home of Hamilton.”

The New York Theatre Workshop was founded in 1979. It has won 17 Tony Awards and received recognition from many other award shows including a Pulitzer Prize and many Lucille Lortel Awards. The theater connects with over 1,800 artists each year, producing plays and putting on educational workshops. These artists work off stage, reading scripts and improving their crafts through workshops and fellowship programs. The New York Theatre Workshop also offers educational programs that are open to the public. Playing now through Oct. 16 is “Nat Turner in Jerusalem.” The next play to hit the stage is “Othello,” which stars Daniel Craig and David Oyelowo in the lead roles. “The Object Lesson” and “Sojourners and Her Portmanteau” will also be featured in the 2016–2017 season. The New York Theatre Workshop was the home of Jonathan Larson’s “Rent,” which transferred to Broadway and was a success.

The Atlantic Theater Company, also known as the Linda Gross Theater, started in 1985. The theater has more to offer than just the productions—it has within it an acting school, the Atlantic Acting School, The school has a variety of programs that anyone can take part in. Some notable alumni from this school are Elizabeth Olsen, who had a leading role in “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” and Gina Rodriguez, the star of “Jane the Virgin,” among many others. Kate Winslet and other famous actors and actresses have been guest teachers at the school, working collaboratively with the theater. The world premiere production of “Marie and Rosetta” is currently playing at the Linda Gross Theater through Oct. 16. For the 2016–2017 season, the Atlantic Theater Company will also be producing “The Band’s Visit,” featuring Tony Shalhoub and John Cariani, “Tell Hector I Miss Him,” “The Penitent” and “Animal.” This theater has accrued 12 Tony Awards and received recognition from other impressive award shows including the Obie Awards and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The Atlantic Theater company is most famous for its production of “Spring Awakening,” which began here, and later transferred to Broadway.

The Signature Theatre Company is one of the newer off-Broadway theaters on the scene, founded in 1991. This theater won the Regional Theater Tony Award in 2014, as the first New York City theater to win it Signature Theatre has also received recognition from other impressive award shows, including Lucille Lortel Awards and Obie Awards. Although there is not a show currently playing at this theater, the upcoming productions include “‘Master Harold’… and the Boys” and “The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World.” This theater has Playwrights in Residence, which currently include Annie Baker, Martha Clarke, Katori Hall, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins and Regina Taylor.