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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

An Off-Broadway theatre is any professional venue in Manhattan in New York City with a seating capacity between 100 and 499, inclusive. These theatres are smaller than Broadway theatres, but larger than Off-Off-Broadway theatres, which seat fewer than 100.

An "Off-Broadway production" is a production of a play, musical, or revue that appears in such a venue and adheres to related trade union and other contracts.[1] Shows that premiere Off-Broadway are sometimes subsequently produced on Broadway.[2]

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  • ✪ The Birth of Off Broadway: Crash Course Theater #47
  • ✪ Why I was FIRED from an Off-Broadway show | Q+A #48


Hey there! I’m Mike Rugnetta, this is Crash Course Theater, and today we’re going all the way from Broadway to Off-Broadway, which Yorick reminds me is… not very far from Broadway. Why are we going to Off-Broadway at all? Look, mid-century Broadway is great. It has incisive social dramas and dancing girls! Though not usually in the same show. But in the middle of the twentieth century, Broadway only had thirty-some theaters, which was not nearly enough for producers to take a chance on all that avant-garde goodness. So, today, we’ll look at the history of Off-Broadway and the genres, styles, and troupes it supported, including the Black Arts Movement. Lights up! Unless lights are too normal for your weird show. INTRO Off-Broadway theater had actually been around for a long time before anyone started calling it that. It is the natural continuation of the Little Theater movement that we explored in our episodes on American moderns and the Harlem Renaissance. In New York that meant theaters like the Provincetown Players, the Washington Square Players, the Neighborhood Playhouse, and the Krigwa Players. After World War II, new theaters and companies appeared and this movement became known as Off-Broadway. If you want to get technical, Off-Broadway used to refer to theaters outside the Broadway Box, a stretch that ran from 40th to 54th Streets in Manhattan. That leaves a lot of city! Originally, most Off-Broadway theaters were located in Greenwich Village, often in the same spaces that the Little Theaters had occupied. Eventually, Off-Broadway became an Actors Equity designation concerning theater size, referring to theaters in Manhattan that have between one hundred and four hundred and ninety-nine seats. But Off-Broadway is also a mindset. It’s against shallow, big-budget entertainment and in favor of ensemble-driven, noncommercial work. Of course, plenty of Off-Broadway stuff ends up transferring to Broadway and turns out to be very commercial. So… I mean, you might be surprised to know that this bit about theater is complicated. In the early days, a lot of Off-Broadway theaters were interested in producing the European avant-garde because America was apparently not absurdist enough on its own! But Off-Broadway theaters also helped to develop a new American avant-garde, and were supportive of works by queer writers and writers of color. Let’s look at a few significant theaters and troupes: The Living Theater, Jose Quintero’s Circle in the Square, and Joe Papp’s New York Shakespeare Festival and Public Theater. The Living Theater was founded in 1947 by Judith Malina and Julian Beck. They started out producing Brecht and Cocteau and Pirandello. But in the late 1950s, they began producing new American work, like Jack Gelber’s “The Connection,” an immersive play about drug addicts, and Kenneth H. Brown’s “The Brig,” a brutal play about a military prison. The Living Theater then relocated to Europe—this was partly because of an unfortunate tax thing; anarchists do not like to pay taxes! The company reinvented themselves as a devised theater company, meaning a company that creates its own original works through rehearsal and exploration. Artaud was a big influence. The Living Theater created a bunch of pretty shocking, occasionally nude, and very participatory pieces like “Paradise Now” and “Mysteries and Smaller Pieces” and brought them back to New York. These shows are basically where all of our clichés about experimental theater come from: long hair, loincloths, naked screaming, naked rolling around on the floor, naked screaming and rolling around on the floor with long hair... But try to remember these weren’t cliches when the Living Theatre did them. The Circle in the Square Theater was founded in Greenwich Village in 1951 by Jose Quintero, the son of Panamanian parents. It was sort of a theater-in-disguise, because it was originally housed in a former nightclub and licensed as a cabaret space. This meant that the actors, a bunch of whom lived on site, also had to serve drinks. Circle in the Square made some gestures toward the European avant-garde, but under Quintero’s passionate direction, it’s best known for cementing the legacy of Tennessee Williams and rehabilitating the work of Eugene O’Neill, who had fallen way out of favor. The consummate Circle in the Square work is probably Quintero’s 1956 revival of O’Neill’s “The Iceman Cometh,” which had pretty much flopped the first time around. It starred Navy veteran, almost EGOT, and awesome actor Jason Robards, who at the time was still driving taxis. The New York Times wrote that since Circle in the Square had originally been a nightclub, it was the perfect place to house O’Neill’s waterfront dive. “It seems not like something written, but like something that is happening,” wrote the critic. Take that, Broadway! Circle in the Square became known for an intense acting style, introducing audiences to influential actors like Geraldine Page, Colleen Dewhurst, and George C. Scott. The theater moved to the South Village in 1960. And then in 1972, it moved—surprise!—to Broadway. Joe Papp was born in Brooklyn to Yiddish-speaking parents. After a stint in the Navy and some time out in California with former members of the Group Theater, he returned to New York and began to stage free Shakespeare plays in a Lower East Side church, insisting that Shakespeare could and should be for everyone. In 1956, the Parks Department gave him permission to use the East River Amphitheater. Robert Moses, then the parks commissioner, told him that he would have to charge admission fees, but Papp refused—Shakespeare should be free for all. The courts supported him. A permanent theater was built for him in Central Park. It opened in 1962, and free Shakespeare is still performed there every summer. Show up early; it gets crowded quick. In 1966, Papp moved into what had been the Astor Library on Lafayette Street and transformed it into the Public Theater, which you can visit today. It’s adjacent to another music, theatre and nightclub venue called… JOE’S PUB. Some of the Public Theater’s hits include “Hair,” “A Chorus Line,” “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf,” “The Normal Heart,” and yes, “Hamilton.” which rumor has it is VERY good... Papp’s legacy is really important. He insisted on staging the classics with diverse casts. He championed queer writers and writers of color. And he demanded that theater could and should be available to everyone. “Theater,” he said, “is a social force. Not just entertainment.” Off-Broadway also helped foster the Black Arts Movement, the cultural wing of the Black Power Movement. The Black Arts Movement has its roots far from Broadway, mostly with the Free Southern Theater, which toured plays like “Waiting for Godot” around the Deep South. But the Black Arts Movement was specifically about encouraging African-American artists and suggesting that their work was part of a tradition separate from the cultural work of white artists. The movement allied itself with postcolonial independence movements in Africa and around the world. One of the movement’s leaders was the poet and playwright Amiri Baraka, who began his career as LeRoi Jones. His 1965 poem “Black Art,” written after the assassination of Malcolm X, became a manifesto for the movement. In one section, he wrote: We want a black poem. And a Black World. Let the world be a Black Poem And Let All Black People Speak This Poem Silently Or LOUD Baraka’s most famous play is probably “Dutchman,” which opened at Off-Broadway’s Cherry Lane Theater in 1964. It’s set on a subway car, where Lula, a white woman, meets Clay, a black man. Lula mocks Clay and tempts him, finally goading him into admitting the anger he feels toward white people, even though he says he would never act on that anger. Lula then stabs Clay, and with the help of the other passengers, she throws his dead body out of the car. She then waits for the next black man. The most important playwright to emerge from the Black Arts Movement and one of the greatest living American playwrights is Adrienne Kennedy. Let’s take a look at her breakthrough play, “Funnyhouse of a Negro,” which opened Off-Broadway in 1964 at the East End Theater. Funnyhouse is another word for a carnival funhouse or a madhouse, and the play explores the devastating effects of racism on a young woman. It filters the style of the European avant-garde through the spirit of the Black Arts Movement. Help us out, ThoughtBubble: “Funnyhouse of a Negro” is set in the bedroom of a young African-American woman named Sarah. But it’s also immediately clear that we’re inside Sarah’s mind. The daughter of a dark-skinned father and a light-skinned mother, Sarah doesn’t feel that she belongs anywhere. She is refracted into separate selves by race. You can feel this even in the stage directions: “in the middle of the Stage in a strong white LIGHT, while the rest of the Stage is in unnatural BLACKNESS.” The action is often interrupted by a harsh, frightening knocking at the door, the sound of Sarah’s father trying to come in. After a prologue in which a woman in a white nightgown crosses the stage carrying a bald head in her arms, the play begins with a conversation between Queen Victoria and the Duchess of Hapsburg about whiteness. The woman in the nightgown interrupts: she is Sarah’s mother, distraught. She says she should never have let a black man touch her. The scene shifts to Sarah’s landlady who tells us that Sarah’s father killed himself when Patrice Lumumba, the Congolese independence leader, was assassinated, and that Sarah hasn’t left her room since. Also, Sarah’s hair is falling out. Sarah says that the landlady is wrong. She killed her father, clubbing him with a black skull. But we later learn that he may have actually left the family and married a white woman. The Duchess has a conversation with a character named Raymond, the proprietor of the funnyhouse. They talk about how Sarah’s mother is in an asylum, how her hair has all fallen out, and how Sarah is the product of rape. Patrice Lumumba gives a speech, and then the Duchess talks with Jesus. The scene changes to a jungle, and the characters reappear, haloed and screaming. The scene returns to Sarah’s room, and Sarah is discovered hanged. Thanks, ThoughtBubble. That was upsetting. And hallucinatory. But it’s supposed to be upsetting and hallucinatory. The play is about one woman wrestling with identity in a racialized world, but it is also about how black artists and intellectuals fight to find their own voices in a world in which almost all of the models and precedents are white. Adrienne Kennedy’s voice is distinct. Her precise, surreal style is built on personal anguish and experience, and is deeply concerned with what it means to be a woman of color in a white world. Her work also expands the boundaries of what theatre can do and finds a new stage language for stories previously unseen in the American theatre. And s--he is still writing today, and is widely revered as a mentor figure by young African American playwrights. Conclusion By the 1960s, there was a problem. Off-Broadway had gotten… fancy. Work had become increasingly commercial, and costs were higher. That’s how we got Off-Off-Broadway. Like Off-Broadway, this was a more or less spontaneous movement. It kicked off in four Downtown spaces: Caffe Cino, Theater Genesis, Judson Poets Theater, and La MaMa. Caffe Cino, run by Joe Cino, was literally a coffeehouse, but it gave playwrights, especially queer playwrights, space to try out their work. The Judson Poets Theater was run by Al Carmines, an assistant minister, out of the Judson Memorial Church. It became a space for art world happenings and experimental dance. Theater Genesis was housed in another church, St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery, which was later the home of Richard Foreman’s Ontological-Hysteric Theater. Run by Ralph Cook, Theater Genesis encouraged poets and playwrights to improvise with their actors. La MaMa, was founded by Ellen Stewart, a former swimsuit designer, in 1961. Exuberant and welcoming, she supported many New York artists and later provided residencies to several European companies. La MaMa is still going today. Funnily enough - I’VE WORKED ON SHOWS AT ALL THREE OF THESE PLACES. And also I sat next to Lou Reed at La Mama once! Thanks for watching. Next time, Yorick and I will be poor and downtrodden—more so than usual—when we explore Poor Theater and the Theater of the Oppressed. Until then… wait, can we afford a curtain? Okay. BUDGET Curtain!



Originally referring to the location of a venue and its productions on a street intersecting Broadway in Manhattan's Theater District, the hub of the theatre industry in New York, the term later became defined by the League of Off-Broadway Theatres and Producers as a professional venue in Manhattan with a seating capacity between 100 and 499 (inclusive) or a specific production that appears in such a venue and adheres to related trade union and other contracts.[1]

Previously, regardless of the size of the venue, a theatre was considered a Broadway (rather than Off-Broadway) house if it was within the "Broadway Box", extending from 40th north to 54th Street and from Sixth Avenue west to Eighth Avenue, including Times Square and West 42nd Street. This change to the contractual definition of "Off-Broadway" benefited theatres satisfying the 499-seat criterion because of the lower minimum required salary for Actors' Equity performers at Off-Broadway theatres as compared with the salary requirements of the union for Broadway theatres.[3] The adoption of the 499-seat criterion occurred after a one-day strike in January 1974.[4] Examples of Off-Broadway theatres within the Broadway Box are the Laura Pels Theatre and The Theater Center.

The Off-Broadway movement started in the 1950s as a reaction to the perceived commercialism of Broadway and provided less expensive venues for shows that have employed many future Broadway artists. An early success was Circle in the Square Theatre's 1952 production of Summer and Smoke by Tennessee Williams.[5] According to theatre historians Ken Bloom and Frank Vlastnik, Off-Broadway offered a new outlet for "poets, playwrights, actors, songwriters, and designers. ... The first great Off-Broadway musical was the 1954 revival" of The Threepenny Opera, which proved that Off-Broadway productions could be financially successful.[6] Theatre Row, on West 42nd Street between 9th and 10th Avenues in Manhattan, is a concentration of Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway theatres. It was developed in the mid-1970s and modernized in 2002.[7]

Many Off-Broadway shows have had subsequent runs on Broadway, including such successful musicals as Hair, Godspell, Little Shop of Horrors, Sunday in the Park with George, Rent, Grey Gardens, Urinetown, Avenue Q, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Rock of Ages, In the Heights, Spring Awakening, Next to Normal, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Fun Home, Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen.[8] In particular, two that became Broadway hits, Grease and A Chorus Line, encouraged other producers to premiere their shows Off-Broadway.[6] Plays that have moved from Off-Broadway houses to Broadway include Doubt, I Am My Own Wife, Bridge & Tunnel, The Normal Heart, and Coastal Disturbances. Other productions, such as Stomp, Blue Man Group, Altar Boyz, Perfect Crime, Forbidden Broadway, Nunsense, Naked Boys Singing, Bat Boy: The Musical, and I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change have had runs of many years Off-Broadway, never moving to Broadway. The Fantasticks, the longest-running musical in theatre history, spent its original 42-year run Off-Broadway and began another long Off-Broadway run in 2006.[9]


Off-Broadway shows, performers, and creative staff are eligible for the following awards: the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award, the Drama Desk Award, the Obie Award (presented since 1956 by The Village Voice), the Lucille Lortel Award (created in 1985 by the League of Off-Broadway Theatres & Producers), and the Drama League Award. Although Off-Broadway shows are not eligible for Tony Awards, an exception was made in 1956 (before the rules were changed), when Lotte Lenya won Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical for the Off-Broadway production of The Threepenny Opera.[10]

List of Off-Broadway theatres

Capacity is based on the capacity given for the respective theatre at the Internet Off-Broadway Database.

Theatre Address Capacity
New World Stages, Stage 1 W. 50th St. (No. 340) 499
New World Stages, Stage 5 W. 50th St. (No. 340) 199
New World Stages, Stage 2 W. 50th St. (No. 340) 350
New World Stages, Stage 3 W. 50th St. (No. 340) 499
New World Stages, Stage 4 W. 50th St. (No. 340) 350
59E59 Theaters, Theatre A E. 59th St. (No. 59) 196
Acorn Theatre W. 42nd St. (No. 410) 199
Irene Diamond Stage, Signature Theatre W. 42nd St. (No. 480) 294
Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre W. 42nd St. (No. 480) 191
Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre W. 42nd St. (No. 480) 191
Playwrights Horizons Mainstage W. 42nd St. (No. 416) 198
Peter Jay Sharp Theatre W. 42nd St. (No. 416) 128
Stage 42 W. 42nd St. (No. 422) 499
St. Luke's Theatre W. 46th St. (No. 308) 178
York Theatre Lexington Ave. (No. 619) 161
Lucille Lortel Theatre Christopher St. (No. 121) 299
The Duke on 42nd Street W. 42nd St. (No. 229) 199
New Victory Theater W. 42nd St. (No. 209) 499
Tony Kiser Theatre W. 43rd St. (No. 305) 296
McGinn/Cazale Theatre Broadway (No. 2162) 108
Westside Theatre, Upstairs Theatre W. 43rd St. (No. 407) 270
Westside Theatre, Downstairs Theatre W. 43rd St. (No. 407) 249
Davenport Theatre Mainstage W. 45th St. (No. 354) 149
Vineyard Theatre E. 15th St. (No. 108) 132
Triad Theatre W. 72nd St. (No. 158) 130
Laura Pels Theatre W. 46th St. (No. 111) 425
Jerry Orbach Theater W. 50th St. (No. 210) 199
Anne L. Bernstein Theater W. 50th St. (No. 210) 199
SoHo Playhouse Vandam St. (No. 15) 178[11]
Orpheum Theatre Second Ave. (No. 126) 347
Minetta Lane Theatre Minetta Lane (No. 18) 391
New York Theatre Workshop, Theatre 79 E. 4th St. (No. 79) 199[12]
Claire Tow Theater W. 65th St. (No. 150) 112[13]
Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater W. 65th St. (No. 150) 299
New York City Center Stage I W. 55th St. (No. 131) 300
New York City Center Stage II W. 55th St. (No. 131) 150
Marjorie S. Deane Little Theater W. 63rd St. (No. 5) 145[14]
Linda Gross Theatre W. 20th St. (No. 336) 199
Irish Repertory Theatre W. 22nd St. (No. 132) 148[15]
Gramercy Arts Theatre E. 27th St. (No. 138) 140[16]
Classic Stage Company E. 13th St. (No. 136) 199
Cherry Lane Theatre Commerce St. (No. 38) 179
Jerome Robbins Theatre W. 37th St. (No. 450) 238
Barrow Street Theatre Barrow St. (No. 27) 199
Astor Place Theatre Lafayette St. (No. 434) 298
Actors Temple Theatre W. 47th St. (No. 339) 199
47th Street Theatre W. 47th St. (No. 304) 196
Daryl Roth Theatre E. 15th St. (No. 101) 299
Lynn Redgrave Theatre Bleecker St. (No. 45) 199
Elektra Theatre W. 43rd St. (No. 300) 199
777 Theatre 8th Ave. (No. 777) 158
John Cullum Theatre W. 54th St. (No. 314) 140
Manhattan Movement & Arts Center W. 60th St. (No. 248) 180
Players Theatre MacDougal St. (No. 115) 248
Theatre 80 St. Mark's St. Mark's Place (No. 80) 160
Theatre at St. Clement's Church W. 46th St. (No. 423) 151
The Gym at Judson Thompson St. (No. 243) 200
LuEsther Theatre Lafayette St. (No. 425) 160
Martinson Theatre Lafayette St. (No. 425) 199
Newman Theatre Lafayette St. (No. 425) 299
Anspacher Theatre Lafayette St. (No. 425) 275
Abrons Arts Center, Playhouse Theatre Grand St. (No. 466) 300

See also


  1. ^ a b League of Off-Broadway Theatres and Producers Inc. and The Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers. "Off-Broadway Minimum Basic Agreement" (PDF). Retrieved December 14, 2007.
  2. ^ Seymour, Lee. "Off-Broadway Theater Isn't Dying - It's Evolving. And It's More Profitable Than Ever". Forbes. Retrieved August 20, 2018.
  3. ^ "How To Tell Broadway from Off-Broadway from ..." Playbill Inc. January 4, 1998. Retrieved January 28, 2017. No matter what else you may have heard, the distinction is mainly one of contracts. There are so many theatres of so many different sizes served by so many different unions in New York that this three-tiered Broadway/Off-Broadway/Off-Off-Broadway system evolved to determine who would get paid what. ... Most "Broadway" theatres are not on Broadway, the street. A few theatres on Broadway, the street, are considered "Off-Broadway."
  4. ^ "Actors' Equity 1970's Timeline". Actors' Equity Association. Retrieved January 27, 2017.
  5. ^ "Circle in the Square papers", New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, accessed December 18, 2018
  6. ^ a b Bloom, Ken and Vlastnik, Frank. "Off Broadway, Part 1", Broadway Musicals: The 101 Greatest Shows of All Time, Black Dog Publishing, 2008, ISBN 1-57912-313-9, p. 94
  7. ^ McKinley, Jesse. "Upscale March of Theatre Row; A Centerpiece of Redevelopment", The New York Times, November 21, 2002, accessed March 2, 2017
  8. ^ "Off Broadway Theatre Information". League of Off-Broadway Theatres and Producers. Retrieved January 27, 2017.
  9. ^ Lefkowitz, David. "The Fantasticks Bids Farewell, Jan. 13, After 42 Years on Sullivan Street", Playbill, January 13, 2002, accessed January 28, 2017; and Gordon, David. "After 56 Years, Tom Jones Isn't Finished With The Fantasticks",, September 9, 2016
  10. ^ Threepenny Opera Off Broadway
  11. ^ "RENTAL FACT SHEET SP". Google Docs. Retrieved December 12, 2017.
  12. ^ "NYTW / Rent Space @ NYTW". NYTW. Retrieved December 12, 2017.
  13. ^ Robin Pogrebin (May 14, 2012), Lincoln Center Theater to Open a New Stage The New York Times.
  14. ^ "The Marjorie S. Deane Little Theater". Retrieved December 12, 2017.
  15. ^ "FAQs - The Irish Repertory Theatre". The Irish Repertory Theatre. Retrieved December 12, 2017.
  16. ^ "Gramercy Arts Theatre". Time Out New York. Retrieved December 12, 2017.

External links

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