“All the world’s a stage” is one of literature’s most famous metaphors, and in New York City, it’s pretty close to the truth. The five boroughs are swarming with performers -- actors, singers, dancers -- all dreaming of their big break. Together, they form the most vibrant, diverse, and magnificent theater scene in the world.
That scene, of course, is most often associated with Broadway -- anchored in Times Square, illuminated by bright lights and digital billboards, and home to the crème de la crème of performing arts pros. Seeing a Broadway show, whether for the first or 40th time, always feels like an event. The theaters are beautiful, the talent is palpable, and the hush that falls over the audience just before curtain is a shared moment pregnant with hope and appreciation.
However. Broadway theater tickets are expensive. The average admission to a play last year was $89.17; musicals were $125.70. Shows skew commercial to appeal to the mainstream. Crowds and long lines can be exasperating. And you must traverse the dreaded Times Square to get there. But The Great White Way’s few dozen theaters make up just a sliver of our theater landscape. Even if the lights went out on Broadway and never came back on, our wider kaleidoscope of performances would barely dim.
Beyond the boundaries of the Theater District, New York City has oodles of options to remedy the perennial resolution to see more theater. Off-Broadway (and its close kin Off-Off-Broadway) offerings tend to be more affordable, more intimate, more apt to take risks, and more accessible. They’re also not just in the city, but of the city, enriched and informed by all the real life drama you’ll encounter every day in any borough.
Theater’s magic is derived from the living, breathing, feeling people right in front of you. They display emotions -- grief, rage, remorse, ecstasy -- that many of us prefer to keep within private confines. That symbiosis, and our resulting catharsis, reverberates throughout performances well beyond Broadway.