9 Reasons Off-Broadway is the Best Place to See New Theater

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There is nothing like live theater. Does anybody else cry a little bit, even during the happiest moments in the show, because the power of performance just totally knocks you on your overly-emotional butt? Just me? Fine.

Living in the beating heart of it all in NYC is an absolute dream. One quick stop on an express train drops me in the center of Times Square and Broadway, but even better, I’m walking distance to some of the best in OFF BROADWAY shows so I get that magical live theater feeling without having to dodge Elmo and Spiderman asking for money.

Did you know that some of the hottest shows New York City has to offer are only steps away from Broadway? You’ll find them at The Public Theater, New World Stages, Theatre Row, 59E59 Theaters, Ars Nova, Classic Stage Company, Atlantic Theater Company, New York Theatre Workshop, the Irish Repertory Theatre, Second Stage Theatre, MCC Theater, and many more Off-Broadway houses scattered around Manhattan.

If you live here, time to shake off that stereotype that Broadway is for tourists and make a date with yourself (or an actual date) to take in the sites and sounds of an off-broadway show. If you’re a tourist, trust me, there’s more to New York City than what is illuminated by the billboards in Times Square.

1. Many of Broadway’s Best Shows Started Off-Broadway

Almost everyone has heard of the popular Pulitzer Prize-winning “Hamilton.” However, many don’t know that this theatrical magic began playing at sold-out houses at Broadway’s Richard Rodgers before it hit the big stage. Other Broadway shows such as “Rent,” “A Chorus Line,” “Next to Normal,” “Fun Home,” and more got their start in smaller theaters. 

2. Some Cult-Favorite Shows Never Transferred 

While some amazing musicals and plays made the leap from Off-Broadway to on, others didn’t. Shows like “Heathers,” “The Wild Party,” “See What I Wanna See,” “Dogfight,” and more later turned into fan favorites after their Off-Broadway run. 

3. Superstars Have Cut Their Teeth Off Broadway 

Some theatergoers who frequent Off-Broadway may have seen the debuts of several select superstars. Did you know that Meryl Streep made her Off-Broadway debut in 1976, playing Katharine in Shakespeare’s “Henry V” at the Delacorte? Bruce Willis was in the original 1983 production of Sam Shepard’s “Fool for Love.” Off-Broadway paved the way for these stars and many more. 

4. You Get to Be Part of the Action

Off-Broadway is the perfect place to find immersive theater. Shows like “Queen of the Night” and “Sleep No More” are more conducive to a non-traditional Broadway house. The action happens all around you and sometimes will even include you!

5. You’ll Support the Arts

Some programs such as Roundabout Underground gives emerging playwrights the opportunity to debut their productions in an intimate setting. Programs like these have paved the way for products like “The Humans,” “If I Forget,” and “Significant Other.” Many other Off-Broadway programs support, take a chance on, and debut new work.

6. Beat the Hustle and Bustle of Times Square

Most Broadway shows are in the heart of the city, which includes tourists and lots of traffic. If you want to escape the craziness of New York City’s busy epicenter, venture to an Off-Broadway house. Many are downtown in the village, and some are on the outskirts of Times Square at Theatre Row. These areas are a huge change of pace from the hectic streets of Midtown. 

7. Get Intimate With the Actors

Broadway theaters seat 500 or more theatergoers, while Off-Broadway theaters are more intimate houses with capacities ranging from 100-499 people. Get closer to your favorite stars and avoid the large stage-door crowds in these smaller theater houses.

8. Observe the Obscure

Broadway is packed full of shows that cater to large audiences and have greater commercial appeal, while Off-Broadway is a great play for risk-taking theater. You can find a play or musical for any taste, including more obscure choices such as “Blue Man Group,” “Gazillion Bubble Show,” “Stomp,” and more. 

9. Eat and/or Drink While Watching

Some Off-Broadway shows take place in unconventional settings where drinks and even food are served. Your premium ticket to “Sweeney Todd” at the Barrow Street Theatre comes complete with a pie. There are many other shows offering theatergoers snacks or drinks as part of the play itself. 

There are many reasons to take a chance and see an Off-Broadway show. Typically, there is more variety and new shows are frequently introduced in smaller theaters across NYC. It’s easy to find tickets to Off-Broadways shows and Broadway shows in a matter of minutes.

Thank you to Emily Johnson of TodayTix for helping write this post. This post is not sponsored.