Is it the location of the theatre? The price of the tickets? The size of the venue? All of the above!
The classification of a theatre depends on several factors, which determines if a theatre is considered to be Broadway, Off-Broadway, or Off Off-Broadway.
According to the American Theatre Wing, there are 39 New York theatres that are classified as “Broadway”. These theatres, located from 41st to 65th street, are the only ones eligible for Tony Awards.
The fast fact is that a theatre with more than 500 seats is considered to be Broadway. These productions require higher costs of running and creating a show, which also means higher ticket prices and salaries for actors. According to Playbill.com, the weekly cost of running a Broadway show averages $250,000 to $650,000. The minimum required salary for a Broadway actor is $1,509 a week.
When people think of Broadway productions, they think of commercially successful shows such asWicked, The Lion King, or Mamma Mia! These shows attract large audiences and tend to feature expensive sets, costumes, lighting, and special effects.
When theatregoers visit New York City, they usually attend a Broadway show because they are unaware of the incredible work that can be found Off-Broadway. Being an Off-Broadway show in no way affects the quality or talent of the production. In fact, Off-Broadway is still considered to be professional theatre, and some Off-Broadway productions later transfer onto Broadway (Spring Awakening, Next to Normal).
There are multiple Off-Broadway theatres scattered throughout New York City. Off-Broadway venues house 100-449 seats. Ticket prices, costs of running, and actors’ salaries are lower than a Broadway production. According to Playbill.com, the cost of running an Off-Broadway show averages from $50,00 to $100,00 a week. An Off-Broadway actors’ weekly salary ranges from $525 (100-199 seats) to $927 (351-499 seats).
Although Off-Broadway productions do not qualify for Tony Awards, they are eligible for other prestigious awards such as the Drama Desk Awards, the New York Drama Critic’s Circle Awards, and more.
Some recent Off-Broadway productions include Heathers at New World Stages, and Fun Home at the Public Theatre. ShowbizU got the chance to chat with Joe DiPietro, the writer of one of Off-Broadway’s longest running shows, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.
Since Off-Broadway productions do not have to fill as many seats as Broadway houses, shows have the freedom to be less commercial and target a smaller, more specific audience. For example, the Off-Broadway production Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play, which premiered at Playwrights Horizons, was about a post apocalyptic world and an episode of the The Simpsons. Mr. Burns was much more suited for an Off-Broadway audience because the story would not have had a large enough appeal to fill 500 seats a night on Broadway.
Some of the most experimental and avant-garde shows in NYC can be found Off Off-Broadway.These small venues must hold less than 100 seats to be considered Off Off. Although these theatres can hire professional actors, they are not under the same contracts as Broadway and Off-Broadway theatres.
Off Off-Broadway venues range from professional shows in black box theatres to amateur productions in coffee shops or apartments.
One of the first Off Off-Broadway troupes was Judsons’ Poet Theatre, which performed in the balcony space of Judson Memorial Church. La MaMa E.T.C., another first, features productions in a sixties inspired, barnlike performance space, and The Flea Theatre hosts experimental works in its 40-seat black box basement. Other well-known Off Off-Broadway theatres worth looking into include Theatre Genesis, New York Theatre Ensemble, and The Playwrights Workshop.
For artists and theatregoers, it is important to know that great original theatre can be found in unexpected places. Next time you are in NYC, encourage yourself to explore beyond just the 39 Broadway theatres, and discover some hidden Off- Broadway gems.
What Broadway, Off-Broadway, or Off Off-Broadway productions do you love? Comment below!