The Playgoer: "America's Off Broadway"

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

"America's Off Broadway"

Here's an idea that's been floated before and whose time perhaps has come again: providing a space in NYC for "regional" theatres to visit and show their work in. The 59E59 complex will be doing just that from May through July with something they're calling "America's Off Broadway." I have some problems with the title. First, an event working to counter NY-centrism probably shouldn't engage in its nomenclature. (And when you think of it, this is defining all productions outside the city as not just one but two steps removed from Broadway!) Second--and this is getting technical, I admit--there are many productions in LORT theatres around the country with larger budgets and larger seating capacities than the classification "Off Broadway" even allows! But as for the zoning requirement of being outside the Times Square theatre district...check.

The selected plays and companies don't strike me as the most high profile, but maybe they're all the more deserving. Among the visiting companies are Ithaca's Kitchen Theatre' Chester Theatre of Chester, MA; Minneapolis' Mixed Blood; and DC's Project Y.

It would be great to see more of our colleagues' work that plays in the rest of the country. And for the New York actors and directors employed regionally to finally get to show that fine work back home! We usually can count on seeing big theatres' big hits, usually from Chicago, either on Broadway (Steppenwolf's August:Osage County) or in nonprofit co-productions or remounts (the Goodman's Ruined, now at MTC). But the more the merrier.

And if we are indeed going to have some empty theatres during this recession, let's make opportunity out of crisis and make them attractive rental venues for out-of-towners, or start some nonprofit LORT partnership to run a space or two. After all--this is our National Theatre.


One NYC StageHand said...

The Off-Broadway zoning issue was created by AEA, ATPAM and the SDSS and the League of Off-Broadway Theatres and Producers. The artificial geographic boundries aren't recognized by other entertainment unions. In fact the LORT Theatres on Broadway and Off (Roundabout Theatre Company
Lincoln Center Theater, Manhattan Theatre Club) all have IATSE contracts and are flourishing.

Playgoer said...

Yes, thank you for clarifying the zoning issue, Stagehand. I knew I was simplifying as I was typing it.

In truth, it only serves as a parameter of what CAN be "Broadway" according to, above all else, the Broadway League. Necessary, but not sufficient, in other words. Lincoln Center Theatre was given a waiver I believe to operate out of the Beaumont uptown.

Jeff Key said...

We're looking to fill one of those "empty theatres" with our play and are currently exploring options of rental, co-pro, add-ons and festivals. There's a movie on the Showtime network called "Semper Fi:One Marine's Journey" (
We're currently revamping the website but we don't mind if you watch while we change:
I believe Thespis works in mysterious ways. I was just "guided" to post a comment. Keep up the good work!


Jeff Key said...

PS the "contact us" link on the play's website will help you find me. Put "attention Jeff Key" in the subject line.