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Guide to the Best NYC Theaters Outside Manhattan

Think you have to go all the way to Midtown to see great theater? There are plenty of options in NYC!


Say "New York theater," and what first comes to mind is Broadway. Even if you want something more unique or affordable than those big budget shows, most theater-goers don't often stray outside of Midtown to find the best theater options. That's a shame, because the other four boroughs of NYC are bursting with theater too, from the quirky and experimental to your favorite Shakespearean plays.

We are here to show you the best options for New York theater outside of Manhattan. We've broken it down by borough and awarded our favorite locations, plus a few honorable mentions. So without any further ado:

The Best Brooklyn Theaters

1. Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM)

BAM is a multi-arts center located in Fort Greene. For more than 150 years, BAM has been the home for adventurous artists, audiences, and ideas—engaging both global and local communities. The center features film, music and dance performances and educational programming in addition to theater, while its theatrical events include new and classic works from controversial writers such as Samuel Beckett and James Joyce and directors like Robert Wilson. BAM's theater is unafraid to present surreal and experimental works from seasoned artists ready to make waves with their work.

2. St. Ann's Warehouse

For 34 years, St. Ann’s Warehouse has commissioned, produced, and presented a unique and eclectic body of innovative theater and concert presentations that meet at the intersection of theater and rock and roll. Their current location is in Dumbo (across the street from CHARGED.fm!) but they will be moving into Brooklyn Bridge Park in Fall 2015. Recent offerings have included a festival of new puppet theater, transplanted shows from experimental British groups like Tricycle Theatre and Battersea Arts Centre, world premiere productions and Shakespeare. St. Ann's Warehouse is the place to go for high-quality performances that push the boundaries of what theater can be.

3. Theatre for a New Audience

For more than three decades, Theatre for a New Audience has been dedicated to the language and ideas of writers: to a dialogue between Shakespeare and a provocative range of classical and contemporary playwrights, such as Christopher Marlowe, Edward Bond and Adrienne Kennedy. This classical theater has recently attracted such big name theater artists as Julie Taymor (Tony winner, The Lion King), Mark Rylance (Tony winner, Twelfth Night) and Peter Brook. This season's offerings included two Shakespeare productions as well as a run of Eugene Ionesco's The Killers, which is finishing up its run this week. In 2013, Theater for a New Audience moved into a permanent location in Fort Greene, just around the corner from BAM.

4. The Brick Theater

Founded in 2012, the Brick is Williamsburg’s destination for a cutting-edge theatrical experience. Dedicated to nurturing the work of emerging artists, it has also hosted some of downtown theater’s most innovative artists, including Annie Baker, Young Jean Lee and The Debate Society. Highlights of the Brick's programming include the Comic Book Theater Festival in June, Game Play, a festival focused on video game-style theater in July and the New York Clown Theater Festival in September.

5. JACK

JACK is a brand new arts center in Clinton Hill dedicated to presenting cutting-edge theater, music and dance performances as well as expanding access to the arts, bridging audiences and educating youth. Their resident company Hoi Polloi is an OBIE-winning New York-based collaborative theater group that regularly presents work at the theater, but JACK also features premiere productions from a variety of other contemporary artists, with an impressive degree of ethnic diversity.

Honorable Mentions: the Bushwick Starr, Irondale in Fort Greene, the Gallery Players in Park Slope and the New Brooklyn Theater in Bedstuy

The Best Queens Theaters

1. Queens Theatre

The premier performing arts venue in Queens, Queens Theatre's mission is to provide quality and diverse performances that are economically and geographically accessible to the borough's 2.2 million residents. The performing arts center opened in Flushing Meadows in 1993, and today boasts an annual Latino Cultural Festival and an Immigrant Voices Project as well as a variety of other new play development programs and the occasional Shakespeare production.

2. The Secret Theatre

Established in Long Island City in 2007, the Secret Theatre and their resident company the Queens Players present a variety of new and classical works in their convertible, 99-seat performance space. The theater also hosts the Queen's Secret Improv Club which performs regularly and a weekly children's theater matinee. They have established a New Voices Project, an initiative to aid playwrights in taking their new and developing work from the page to the stage.

3. Astoria Performing Arts Center

Founded in 2001, the Astoria Performing Arts Center produces revivals and premieres of plays and musicals, as well as developing new works through readings and workshops. With a flexible theater space that changes with each production, APAC produces both main stage and community performances, world premieres and well-known musicals.

Honorable Mentions: the Hip to Hip Theatre Company in parks across Queens and the Parkside Players in Forest Hills

The Best Bronx Theaters

1. Open Hydrant Theater Company

The only professional AEA ensemble theater company in the South Bronx, Open Hydrant is making waves. Their mission is to energize the arts and theater scene in the Bronx, empower a diverse group of creative artists and help revitalize urban communities. Recent offerings include Urban Waves, a summer shorts play festival and a 1950s re-imagining of A Midsummer Night's Dream. The theater has been around for less than a year, but it promises great art in the future.

2. Pregones Theater

Pregones Theater is a Bronx-based ensemble whose mission is to create and perform original musical theater and plays rooted in Puerto Rican/Latino cultures, as well as presenting other performing artists who share their mission. Founded in 1979, the company has resided since 2005 in a new theater south of Yankee Stadium, in the heart of the burgeoning South Bronx Cultural Corridor. Pregones serves as a hub for Latino actors, musicians, dancers, writers, directors, designers, and technicians, and has produced close to 70 premieres in its time.

3. City Island Theater Group

Founded in 1998, the City Island Theater Group has entertained City Island audiences with a wide range of theatrical performances at a reasonable cost. Productions have varied from Shakespeare and well-known musicals to one-act festivals of newer works. City Island Theater Group is heavily invested in its community, having performed Shakespeare in the park as well as benefit performances.

Honorable Mentions: the Bronx Opera Company and the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts The Best Staten Island Theaters

1. Harbor Lights Theater Company

Based in the culturally dynamic neighborhood of Staten Island’s North Shore, the Harbor Lights Theater Company is committed to illuminating the human experience by bringing to the community accessible, relevant, and thought-provoking professional theatrical productions and educational programs. The theater was founded in 2010 and has since sought to bring professional quality theater out of Manhattan and to Staten Island as well as providing opportunities for local artists. Their next production is the original musical The Bikinis in August.

2. Sundog Theatre

Sundog Theatre was incorporated in 2002 to present original and contemporary theater on Staten Island. It features an annual one-act festival called Scenes from the Staten Island Ferry and features a combination of premiere plays and old favorites like A Christmas Carol. Sundog also focuses heavily on arts education within its community.

3. Staten Island Shakespearean Theatre

For 35 years, the SI Shakespearean Theatre has been bringing quality theater to Staten Island. Despite the name, this organization produces both classical and contemporary works, dramas and musicals and has even premiered 15 new works. Since losing its space in 2006, the theater has put on a variety of site-specific works across Historic Richmond Town. The upcoming season includes works from playwrights as diverse as Shakespeare and Aaron Sorkin.

Honorable Mentions: the St. George Theatre and In the Wings Productions This article was previously published on CHARGED.fm.