Off-Broadway Theater and Performances

ABOVE Rapper Nas performing at the Bowery Poetry Club
ABOVE Rapper Nas performing at the Bowery Poetry Club

From leotard-clad dancers writhing on stage to wine- fueled audience-participation nights to political poetry slams, New York abounds with avant-garde theater and performances. Downtown is home to many of the off-off-Broadway theaters, including the Public Theater, which showcases emerging playwrights, and also hosts the splendid Shakespeare in Central Park event every summer.

The student- thronged Astor Place is a breeding ground for independent theaters, including Under St. Marks, a black-box-and-folding-chairs performance space. As its name suggests, the theater space is under St. Marks Place, a street that has long been known for its incense and zany performance art.

Poetry Slams (sometimes called spoken word) are recitals of free-form poems, rap, and storytelling that are usually entertaining, unpredictable, and raucous, but never boring. The Nuyorican Poets Cafe, located in Alphabet City and generally heralded as the progenitor of spoken word in New York, serves up a nightly mix of memorable acts.

The Bowery Poetry Club also presents an eclectic range of performances, from poetry recitals to performance art. For a sassy night out, come by for a “Badass Burlesque” night. The club also puts on lively events for the neighborhood, including puppet performances and bingo nights hosted by a popular local drag queen. Finally, for avant-garde improvizational comedy, check out the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB). Keep your eyes peeled: amid all the emerging comics, big names will occasionally stop by, including Robin Williams and Tina Fey.

Practical Information

Bowery Poetry Club 308 Bowery, East Village;

Nuyorican Poets Cafe 236 East Third Street, East Village;

Public Theater 425 Lafayette Street, East Village;

Under St. Marks 94 St Marks Place, East Village;

Upright Citizens Brigade 307 West 26th Street, Chelsea

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