Off Broadway Productions can take place in spaces seating as few as 20 theatregoers. Off Broadway productions are not only performed in non-traditional theatre spaces, but also, as you may have guessed, not along the Great White Way. Broadway houses often seat more than 1,000 and both the performers and musicians are union members. Off-Broadway productions are often experimental pieces, written and performed by up and coming, but not generally household name playwrights and actors.
A night of Off-Broadway theatre can be exciting, insightful and inexpensive. Because the actors and technicians are not receiving union wages, overhead is low and ticket prices cheap. Proscenium stages and elaborate costumes, however, are not hallmarks of Off-Broadway productions. Small spaces, often with minuscule or non-existent lobbies open to unadorned walls in bare spaces. Seating may also be folding chairs. But the possibility of viewing a play written from a fresh perspective is tantalizing.
Off-Broadway houses may be found in just about every Manhattan neighborhood- uptown at Lincoln Center; downtown to Tribeca. Parking can be on-street or in a nearby lot. And while subways stop in most neighborhoods, buses often do not run as late as curtains, so check your schedule if taking mass transit.
The good news is, most Off-Broadway theatres proliferate Lower Manhattan. Off-Broadway houses abound in Greenwich and the East Village and Tribeca. All of these neighborhoods offer excellent boutique shopping and restaurants (East Village restaurants, Greenwich Village restaurants, Tribeca restaurant, West Village restaurants) serving varied, affordable and fabulous cuisine.
Make a day of it! Lower Manhattan on the weekends offers street fairs, farmers and flea markets, bistros and boutiques. There are art galleries, rare book stores, and many handmade jewelry and leather goods stores. Take in a small neighborhood museum, historic home or decorator's showhouse. Refuel with a latte and some fresh pastry. Sit at an outdoor table and people watch.
While Broadway shows are usually musicals or revivals with large casts, Off-Broadway productions can have as few as one performer, and are often dramas, satires, musical revues or comedies. Occasionally, a production such as "Colored Girls…..Rainbow was ‘Enuf" develops a following and moves to one of the smaller Broadway houses. But for the most part, Off-Broadway productions retain their experimental aspect which, despite the lack of flashy production values often makes for an evening of exciting theatre.