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  • Writer's pictureKevin Shinnick


The pandemic resulted in the loss of many NYC performance spaces for Off Broadway & Off Off Broadway Theatre.

The number of Broadway Theatres have remained about the same for the most part since the Mark Hellinger closed in 1989 . Broadway Houses are defined as being five hundred seats or more . They mostly occupy what is known as The Theatre District from W 40th to W 54th , between 6th & 9th Avenue. There are a few exceptions, like the Lincoln Center Vivian Beaumont . All are signatories of the various unions.

Off Broadway got started in the 1950s . It is defined by having 99 to 499 seats . When it began, it was to try more experimental theatre that Broadway could not afford to risk. They too work under union countacts , especially tailored for the smaller spaces.

Off Off Broadway was spun off from Off Broadway , in venues 99 seats or less. The original venues were often in store fronts, or even small perforamce spaces like the original, Cafe Cino.

The number of available spaces declined dramatically , beginning in the 1990s and the real estate boom. As the years went on many of the numerous spaces around the city closed , often the buildings torn down & expensive boutiques or/ and high end apartments put in their place.

THE FANTASTICKS ,off off bwy @ the long gone Sullivan St Playhouse

The numbers seemed to stabilize for a while , though as rents increased in the early 2010s, even more were forced to close their doors or at least move out of Manhattan to Queens or Brooklyn.

The biggest blow , though, was the pandemic. Many spaces which had been able to stay afloat had to shutter permanently due to lack of companies renting their spaces. For a city that prided itself on the Arts, this was quite disheartening.

Therefore , it does give hope that we have the ones that have survived, like THE PRODUCERS CLUB , THE CHAIN, THEATRE, THE KRAINE , the various spaces on Theatre Row, ACCESS THEATRE,THE GENE FRANKEL THEATRE, THE SHEEN CENTER , plus a few more I may have missed.

Off Off Broadway runs are usually short , anywhere from one performance up to a month. Many are non union. There are , however,some who perform under special agreements with Actors Equity, and are meant to showcase the talents of those involved . People like Harvey Fierstein and Christopher Meloni got their start in Off Off Broadway. Who knows, you may see the next future Tony Award winner at the beginning of their career ! For those who are cost conscious, the average Broadway ticket price is currently $189 . Off Broadway is $87 . Off Off Broadway tickets go for around $35.


You can donate to support THE ENSEMBLE THEATRE COMPANY of NEW YORK by making a secure donation via FRACTURED ATLAS.

Kevin G Shinnick

(May 15,2021)

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