This section contains exterior photos of most Off- and Off-Off-Broadway theatres in New York City as of the Summer of 2006. Following a surprisingly positive response to my page of Broadway Theatres, I decided to undertake a project to take a snapshot of the ever-changing state of non-Broadway theatrical real estate. While most Off- and Off-Off-Broadway theatres share their addresses with other businesses and lack the distinctive and imposing edifices of Broadway Theatres, a perusal of these photos offers a unique perspective on the complex fabric of New York's neighborhoods and cultural institutions.
According to Actor's Equity Association, the union for professional actors and stage managers, Off-Broadway theatres are located in Manhattan and have 100 to 499 seats. Off-Off-Broadway theatres are theatres with 99 or fewer seats. Actors in Off-Broadway productions are union professionals that work under an Off-Broadway contract, while actors in Off-Off-Broadway productions may not be union and are usually working for little more than transportation reimbursement or a modest stipend.
In practice, however, the distinction between Off- and Off-Off-Broadway has more to do with the production in a particular space rather than the designation of the house. Off-Broadway theatres are occasionally used for readings and small productions that are not covered by an Off-Broadway contract. And there are theatres (such as the Beacon Theatre) that host large productions that, because of their non-union status, do not specifically fall into the Broadway, Off-Broadway, or Off-Off-Broadway categories. There are also a number of cabaret / nighclub spaces pictured here that are not theatres in the strictest sense, but provide significant performance opportunities for musical theatre performers and occasionally host modest musical productions with plots.
While the group of theatres that fall into the category of "Broadway" is relatively stable and confined to a specific geographic area, Off- and Off-Off-Broadway theatres are a somewhat more dynamic bunch that come and go with alarming frequency. In the 15 years from the time I moved to New York City until I got around to photographing these theatres, many venues that had been around for decades had been subsumed by the explosion of real estate values and gentrification of the previously tawdry neighborhoods that served as fertile gardens for budding theatrical artists. But, in spite of impossible economics, theatre manages to adapt and survive, albeit either by luck, obdurateness and / or the infusion of support from external sources. As can be seen below, the geographic and architectural diversity of theatrical venues in New York is quite extensive, although rarely stunning. The magic is what goes on inside.
The theatres are organized generally by neighborhood, South to North, East to West. Neighborhood definitions from CitiFurnished.com. Probably the best and most current listing of Off- and Off-Off-Broadway theatres is at NYTheatre.com