Fodor's New York City 2016 - Fodor's (2015)
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Updated by John Rambow
”Where do you wait tables?” is the not-so-ironic question New York performers get when they say they’re in the arts. Even more telling is that most of these toughened artists don’t miss a beat when they respond with the restaurant’s name. Fact is, if you’re an aspiring performer here, you’d better be tough and competitive. There is a constant influx of artists from around the globe, and all these actors, singers, dancers, and musicians striving for their big break infuse the city with a crackling creative energy.
Just as tough are the audiences. Although rising ticket prices have made attending a Broadway show a less common outing for even the most devout theater-loving New Yorkers, that’s not true of many other kinds of performances. Whether the audiences are primarily local or not, it’s their discernment that helps drive the arts scene, whether they are flocking to a concert hall to hear a world-class soprano deliver a flawless performance, or crowding into a cramped café to support fledgling writers reading from their own work.
New York has somewhere between 200 and 250 “legitimate” theaters (meaning those with theatrical performances, not movies), and many more ad hoc venues—parks, churches, lofts, galleries, rooftops, even parking lots. The city is also a revolving door of special events: summer jazz, one-act-play marathons, film festivals, and music and dance celebrations from the classical to the avant-garde, to name just a few. It’s this unrivaled wealth of culture and art that many New Yorkers cite as the reason they’re here, and the reason why millions more make the migration.
DANCE, OPERA, MUSIC, AND MORE
In addition to theater, New York is one of the premier cities in the world for ballet and contemporary dance, opera, and classical music. Start your search with a visit to the websites of the three biggest performing-arts centers: Lincoln Center (www.lincolncenter.org), Carnegie Hall (www.carnegiehall.org), and the Brooklyn Academy of Music (www.bam.org). They all have detailed events calendars, and their listings demonstrate the sheer depth of great performances available in New York. It’s also helpful to consider the time you’re visiting. Many arts groups schedule their local performances from September through May, with special holiday events planned in November and December. Although the number of performances in many venues taper off in the dog days of summer, the period also brings lots of festivals and outdoor performances, many of them inexpensive or free. Finally, it’s smart to also check out the websites of any museums you think you might want to visit while in town. The Frick, for instance, has been hosting world-class classical-music concerts in its 175-seat Music Room since 1939,the Metropolitan Museum of Art periodically stages concerts on its rooftop, or near the Egyptian Temple of Dendur, or in its enviable gallery of musical instruments.
The New York Times (www.nytimes.com/events) listings are probably the single best place to find out what’s happening in the city. The New Yorker (www.newyorker.com) is more selective; its “Goings On” app lets you filter performances and other events by location. New York magazine (www.nymag.com) gives a slightly more opinionated spin on the performing arts. All three publish preview issues listing the major events coming in the season ahead. The theater sites www.playbill.com, www.theatermania.com, and www.offoffonline.com (for Off-Off-Broadway) provide synopses, accessibility info, run times, seating charts, and links to buy tickets.
BROADWAY AND OFF-BROADWAY—WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
There are roughly 40 Broadway theaters in New York, and although you might expect their shows to be the best ones in town, the definition depends on theater capacity, not quality. Per the Actors’ Equity union, which determines such matters, a Broadway theater must have at least 500 seats, though most have at least 1,000. Nearly all are within a few blocks of Times Square. A show must be performed in a Broadway theater to be eligible for a Tony Award. Off-Broadway theaters, which are scattered throughout Manhattan, have 100 to 499 seats; Off-Off-Broadway venues seat fewer than 100.
BUYING TICKETS AT FULL PRICE
How much do tickets sell for, anyway? The average price paid for a Broadway show hovers around $100; not counting the limited “premium seat” category (or discount deals), the low end for musicals is in the $50–$75 range. Nonmusical comedies and dramas start at about $60 and top out at about $120. Off-Broadway show tickets average $60–$90, and Off-Off-Broadway shows can run as low as $15–$25, or even less if you find a deal. Tickets to an opera start at about $25 for nosebleed seats and can soar to more than $400 for prime locations. Classical music concerts go for $25 to $100 or more, depending on the venue and the performers. Dance performances are usually in the $15 to $60 range, but expect choice seats for the ballet to cost more, especially around the holidays.
Scoring tickets is fairly easy, especially if you have some flexibility. Always start with the website of the venue or theater company to see what deals and prices are available. If timing or cost is critical, the only way to ensure the seats you want is to make your purchase in advance—and that might be months ahead for a hit show. In general, tickets for Saturday evening and for weekend matinees are the toughest to secure, and the priciest.
For smaller performing-arts companies, and especially for Off-Broadway shows, try Ticket Central, on Theater Row; service charges are nominal here. SmartTix is a reliable resource for (usually) smaller performing-arts companies, including dance and music; their service charges are nominal as well.
Sure bets for Broadway (and some other big-hall events) are the box office or either Telecharge or Ticketmaster. Virtually all larger shows are listed with one service or the other, but never both; specifying “premium” helps get elusive—and expensive (sometimes topping $500)—seats. A broker or your hotel concierge should be able to procure last-minute tickets, but prices may even exceed “premium” rates. Be prepared to pay steep add-on fees (per ticket and per order) for all ticketing services.
TIP Although online ticket services provide seating maps to help you choose, the advantage of going to the box office is twofold: there are no add-on service fees, and a ticket seller can personally advise you about sight lines—and knee room—for the seat location you are considering. Broadway box offices do not usually have direct phone lines; their walk-in hours are generally 10 am until curtain.
Best Tips for Broadway
Whether forking over hundreds of dollars for a top seat or shoestringing it with a standing-room ticket, you’ll have better Broadway experiences to brag about if you take our advice.
Do your homework. Remember—your friend’s must-see may not be yours. Subscribe to online newsletters ahead of your trip for access to show synopses, special ticket offers, and more. If it’s a classic play or opera, you may enjoy it more if you’ve read a synopsis before you go.
Reserve ahead. The TKTS booth is great if you’re up for what the fates make available, but for must-sees, book early. While you’re at it, ask whether the regular cast is expected. (An in-person stop at the box office is the most reliable way to score this information, but don’t hold them to it unless it’s the day of the performance. If there is a change then—and the replacement cast is not acceptable to you—you may get a refund.) For musicals, live music often adds a special zing; confirm when ticketing to avoid surprises on the rare occasion when recorded music is used.
Check theater seating charts. Front mezzanine is a great option; with seats that overhang the orchestra section, they can be better (though not always less expensive) than many orchestra seats. Book with a seating chart at hand (available online and at the box office). Check accessibility, especially at older theaters with multiple flights of stairs and few elevators.
Know when to go. Typically, Broadway shows give eight performances a week. There are nightly performances from Tuesday through Saturday night, and matinees at 2 pm on Wednesday and Saturday and at 3 pm on Sunday (on Monday most theaters are closed, or “dark”). Saturday night and Wednesday matinee are the most difficult. Weeknights are popular with locals. Tuesday is especially promising, and typically an earlier curtain—7 or 7:30 instead of the usual 8 pm—helps ensure a good night’s sleep for your next day of touring.
Dress right. You can throw on jeans to go to the theater these days, but personally we feel shorts and sneakers have no place on Broadway (at least in the audience). Bring binoculars if your seats are up high, leave behind the bulky coat (coat checks are not the norm), and drop bags and packages off at your hotel room in advance—theater seats tend to be narrow, with little leg room.
Travel smart. Trying to get to the show on time? Unless you don’t mind watching the meter run up while you’re stuck in traffic, avoid cabs into or out of Times Square. Walk, especially if you’re within 10 blocks of the theater. Otherwise, take the subway; many train lines converge in the area.
Dine off Broadway. Dining well on a budget and doing Broadway right are not mutually exclusive. The key is to avoid eating in Times Square itself—even the national chains are overpriced. Consider eating earlier instead, in whatever neighborhood you’re visiting that day. If you’re already in Midtown, head west to 9th or 10th Avenue, where prix-fixe deals and ethnic eateries are plentiful and many actors and theater folk live. You never know whom you’ll see on the street or at the next table.
BUYING DISCOUNT TICKETS
The cheapest—though chanciest—ticket opportunities are found at participating theater box offices on the day of the performance. These rush tickets, usually about $25–$40, may be distributed by lottery and are usually for front-row (possibly neck-craning) seats, though it can vary by theater. Check the comprehensive planner on www.nytix.com or go to the box office of the show you are interested in to discover whether they make such an offer and how to pursue it. Obstructed-view seats or those in the very rear balcony are sometimes available for advance purchase; the price point on these is usually in the $35–$40 range.
For advanced discount purchases, the best seating is likely available by using a discount code. Procure these codes, good for 20% to 50% off, online. (You need to register on each website.) The excellent no-subscription-required | www.broadwaybox.com posts all discount codes currently available for Broadway shows. As with all discount codes provided through online subscriber services—TheaterMania,Playbill, and Best of Off Broadway among them—to avoid service charges, you must bring the printout to the box office, and make your purchase there.
For seats at 25% to 50% off the usual price, go to one of the TKTS booths (www.tdf.org): there’s one in Times Square, another at South Street Seaport, and a third in downtown Brooklyn. Although they do tack on a $4-per-ticket service charge, and not all shows are predictably available, the broad choices and ease of selection—and, of course, the solid discount—make TKTS the go-to source for the flexible theatergoer. You can browse available shows for that day online or via a TKTS app, or check the electronic listings board near the ticket windows to mull over your options while you’re in line. At the Times Square location (look for the red glass staircase), there is a separate “Play Express” window (for nonmusical events) to further simplify (and expedite) things. Times Square hours are: Monday and Wednesday–Saturday 3–8, and Tuesday 2–8 for evening performances; for Wednesday and Saturday matinees 10–2; for Sunday matinees 11–3; and for Sunday evening shows, from 3 until 7. The South Street Seaport location, at the corner of Front and John streets, is open Monday–Saturday 11–6, and Sunday 11–4, except in winter. Brooklyn hours are Tuesday–Saturday 11–3 and 3:30–6. All ticket sales are for showson that same day (one exception: the Brooklyn location’s matinee tickets are for next-day performances only). Credit cards, cash, or traveler’s checks are accepted at all locations . TIP Ticket-booth hours may vary over holiday periods.
Best of Off Broadway. | 212/874–5348 | www.bestofoffbroadway.com.
Playbill. | www.playbill.com.
SmartTix. | 212/868–4444 | www.smarttix.com.
Telecharge. | 212/239–6200, 800/447–7400 outside NYC | www.telecharge.com.
TheaterMania. | New York | 212/947–8844 | www.theatermania.com.
Ticket Central. | 416 W. 42nd St., between 9th and 10th aves., Midtown West | 212/279–4200 | www.ticketcentral.com | Station: 1, 2, 3, 7, N, Q, R, S to Times Sq.–42nd St.; A, C, E to 42nd St.–Port Authority.
Ticketmaster. | 866/448–7849 for automated service, 800/745–3000 | www.ticketmaster.com.
TKTS. | Duffy Sq., 47th St. and Broadway, Midtown West | 212/912–9770 | www.tdf.org | Station: 1, 2, 3, 7, N, Q, R, S to Times Sq.–42nd St.
TKTS. | 1 MetroTech Ctr., between Myrtle St. Promenade and Jay St., Downtown Brooklyn | 212/912–9770 | www.tdf.org | Station: A, C, F, R to Jay St.–MetroTech; 2, 3, 4, 5 to Borough Hall.
TKTS. | South Street Seaport, John and Front sts., near rear of 199 Water St., Financial District | 212/912–9770 | www.tdf.org | Station: 2, 3, 4, 5, A, C, J, Z to Fulton St.
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Lower Manhattan | East Village and Lower East Side | Greenwich Village and West Village | Chelsea | Midtown West | Upper East Side | Upper West Side | Harlem | Brooklyn | Queens
Brookfield Place Winter Garden.
This office complex across the street from the World Trade Center hosts occasional musical performances, which have included jazz, gospel, avant-garde, and site-specific sound installations, as well as a little theater, dance, and film. Events are presented within Brookfield Place’s spectacular 10-story glass-covered Winter Garden atrium, or on its outdoor plaza, overlooking the Hudson, and are almost always free. | World Financial Center, West St., between Vesey and Liberty sts., Financial District | www.brookfieldplaceny.com/EventsCalendar | Station: E to World Trade Center; 1 to Rector St.
Tribeca Performing Arts Center.
This center celebrates theater (with a clever children’s series) and dance but is primarily known for jazz. Highlights in Jazz and Lost Jazz Shrines are two of its special series. | 199 Chambers St., at Greenwich St.,TriBeCa | 212/220–1459 | www.tribecapac.org | Station: 1, 2, 3 to Chambers St.
Readings and Lectures
Situated in a bright and airy building in the residential area of Battery Park City and near the Hudson River, this reading room is an open resource for all ages, with a 50,000-volume library, readings, and other poetry-centric events. | Battery Park City, 10 River Terr., at Murray St., TriBeCa | 212/431–7920 | www.poetshouse.org | Reading room Tues.–Fri. 11–7, Sat. 11–6 | Station: E to World Trade Center; 1, 2, 3, A, C, E to Chambers St.
Readings and Lectures
Fodor’s Choice | The Greene Space (Jerome L. Greene Performance Space The local public radio stations WNYC and WQXR invite the public into their intimate (125 seats) studio for live shows featuring classical, rock, jazz, and new music; audio theater; conversation; and interviews. It’s a great place to get up-close with writers and newsmakers, as well as musicians and actors who might be playing Carnegie Hall, Broadway, or the Met Opera a few days later. | 44 Charlton St., at Varick St., SoHo | 646/829–4000 | www.thegreenespace.org | Station: C, E to Spring St.; 1 to Houston St.
Housing Works Bookstore Cafe.
Amid roughly 25,000 books and CDs for sale, Housing Works hosts a wide range of literary and cultural events, including quirky readings, sometimes with unannounced surprise guests; journal and book launches; and storytelling or music nights. This cozy store is staffed largely by volunteers, and all profits go toward fighting homelessness and HIV/AIDS. | 126 Crosby St., between Houston and Prince sts., SoHo | 212/334–3324 | www.housingworks.org/bookstore | Weekdays 9–9, weekends 9–5 | Station: N, R to Prince St.; B, D, F, M to Broadway–Lafayette St.; 6 to Bleecker St.
Celebrating all manner of contemporary, genre-bending productions, the original home of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues and Basil Twist’s Symphonie Fantastique also houses art exhibitions and a café. | 145 6th Ave., between Spring and Broome sts., SoHo | 212/352–3101 for tickets | www.here.org | Station: C, E to Spring St.
EAST VILLAGE AND LOWER EAST SIDE
Founded to foster the work of independent choreographers such as Lucinda Childs and David Gordon, Danspace Project sponsors performances that are as fresh—and idiosyncratic—as the historic church space they occupy. Performance series curated by guest artists are also a regular part of the calendar. | St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery, 131 E. 10th St., at 2nd Ave., East Village | 212/674–8112, 866/811–4111 for tickets | www.danspaceproject.org | Station: 6 to Astor Pl.; N, R to 8th St.–NYU.
Fodor’s Choice | Anthology Film Archives.
Dedicated to preserving and exhibiting independent and avant-garde film, Anthology Film Archives is made up of two screening rooms that seat 187 and 75 as well as a film repository, all inside a renovated red-brick courthouse. Cofounded in the 1960s by the downtown legend and filmmaker Jonas Mekas, Anthology remains a major destination for adventurous and unusual movies, new as well as old. The Essential Cinema series delves into the works of canonized, groundbreaking directors; the frequent festivals are more eclectic and may cover under-recognized auteurs, such as a series devoted to the director Edgar G. Ulmer, as well as hard-to-see films of all types. This is an experience for film lovers, not casual moviegoers, so don’t expect the amenities you’d find at a multiplex. | 32 2nd Ave., at 2nd St., East Village | 212/505–5181 | www.anthologyfilmarchives.org | Station: F to 2nd Ave.
With its exposed brick, structural pillars, theater-style seating, and industrial-chic bar, this intimate subterranean concert hall could just as easily be a cool lounge as a venue for classical (especially chamber), jazz, and new music. Series here have included performances of all of Beethoven’s string quartets, as well as an annual PianoFest, which brings in some of the most exciting pianists from across many genres. The calendar also finds room for singer-songwriters, comedians, and performers of world music. | Downstairs, 45 Bleecker St., between the Bowery and Lafayette St., East Village | 212/533–5470 | www.subculturenewyork.com | Station: 6 to Bleecker St.; B, D, F, M to Broadway–Lafayette St.; N, R to Prince St.
Readings and Lectures
A nexus of the downtown literary scene, KGB keeps a busy calendar of readings and discussions: start with Sunday Night Fiction or KGB Poetry on Monday night. The name and the Soviet kitsch are a nod to the bar’s history as a speakeasy for leftist Ukrainians. | 85 E. 4th St., between the Bowery and 2nd Ave., East Village | 212/505–3360 | www.kgbbar.com | Station: F to 2nd Ave.
Fodor’s Choice | The Moth.
Founded in 1997 and dedicated to first-person storytelling, this roving series has spread far beyond just New York, where it was founded in 1997 by the writer George Dawes Green. But it’s still going strong here: the Mainstage shows bring together luminaries to tell their stories and maybe dish a little too. At the much looser open-mic StorySLAMs, competitors are randomly selected and given just five minutes to tell their story, which must tie in with the night’s theme. These tales get told at Housing Works and other venues downtown and in Brooklyn. | Housing Works Bookstore Cafe, 126 Crosby St. | 212/742–0551 | Station: B, D, F, M to Broadway–Lafayette St.: N, R to Prince St.
Nuyorican Poets Cafe.
The reigning arbiter of poetry slams, the Nuyorican Poets Cafe hosts open-mic events and the influential granddaddy (b. 1989) of the spoken-word scene, the Friday Night Poetry Slam. Other performances, including hip-hop open mics, jazz acts, and theatrical performances, round out the schedule. Though there are a small number of reserved tickets for popular shows like the Friday Night Poetry Slam and the Monday night open mics, it’s still a good idea to line up early; the small venue gets packed quickly. | 236 E. 3rd St., between Aves. B and C, East Village | 212/780–9386 | www.nuyorican.org | Station: F to 2nd Ave.; J, M, Z to Essex St.
The Poetry Project.
Launched in 1966, the Poetry Project has been a source of sustenance for poets (and their audiences) ever since. This place has seen performances by Allen Ginsberg, Amiri Baraka, Sam Shepard, Patti Smith, Anne Waldman, and many others. At current readings you might find artists of the same caliber. Prime times are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. | St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery, 131 E. 10th St., at 2nd Ave.,East Village | 212/674–0910 | www.poetryproject.org | Station: 6 to Astor Pl.; L to 3rd Ave.
Classic Stage Company.
At the CSC’s cozy 199-seat theater you can see excellent revivals—such as Chekhov’s Three Sisters, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, or several plays of Euripides—often with a modern spin, reigning theatrical stars, and new scores. | 136 E. 13th St., between 3rd and 4th aves., East Village | 212/677–4210 | www.classicstage.org | Station: 4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, R to 14th St.–Union Sq.
La MaMa E.T.C.
Ellen Stewart (1919–2011) founded La MaMa E.T.C. in 1961 in a small Manhattan basement. Since that time, the Experimental Theatre Club has grown continuously, all the while taking risks on unknown works that cross cultures and performance disciplines. | 66 E. 4th St., between the Bowery and 2nd Ave., East Village | 646/430–5374 for tickets | www.lamama.org | Station: F to 2nd Ave.; B, D, F, M to Broadway–Lafayette St.; 6 to Bleecker St.
New York Theatre Workshop.
Works by new and established playwrights anchor this theater’s repertoire. Jonathan Larson’s Rent got its start here before going to Broadway, as did the hit musical Once. Works by Tony Kushner (Homebody/Kabul), Caryl Churchill, Amy Herzog, and Paul Rudnick have also been staged here. Hit the box office for Sunday night CheapTix; those seats are $20—in cash—as available (advance purchase is recommended). | 79 E. 4th St., between the Bowery and 2nd Ave., East Village | 212/279–4200 for tickets | www.nytw.org | Station: F to 2nd Ave.; B, D, F, M to Broadway–Lafayette St.; 6 to Astor Pl.
Performance Space 122 (PS122).
Founded in 1979 inside a 19th-century public school building, Performance Space 122 has helped launch the careers of many a downtown musician and artist, both super-fringey and otherwise. After an extensive overhaul that’s scheduled to be finished in 2016, it will reopen with two new theaters and a much modernized interior. Until then you can catch performances in other venues around town, particularly during the two-week COIL festival, held in January. | 150 1st Ave., at 9th St., East Village | 212/477–5829 for tickets | www.ps122.org | Station: 6 to Astor Pl.; L to 1st Ave.
The Public Theater.
Fresh theater, such as Here Lies Love, David Byrne’ and Fatboy Slim’s “poperetta” about Imelda Marcos, keep people talking about the Public Theater. Many noted productions that began here (Hair, A Chorus Line) went on to Broadway and beyond. Some shows release limited-availability $20 or $40 rush standby tickets at the box office (two tickets max; cash only). Check online for available performances. | 425 Lafayette St., south of Astor Pl., East Village | 212/539–8500, 212/967–7555 for tickets | www.publictheater.org | Station: 6 to Astor Pl.; N, R to 8th St.–NYU.
Theater for the New City.
This four-theater cultural complex stages three- or four-week-long runs of new shows by emerging and mid-career American playwrights. The socially conscious group also runs a free summer program of street theater, performed in all five boroughs. | 155 1st Ave., between 9th and 10th sts., East Village | 212/254–1109 | www.theaterforthenewcity.net | Station: 6 to Astor Pl.; L to 1st Ave.
LOWER EAST SIDE
Talk about busy: according to a Village Voice article, this storied building, which supposedly dates back to 1844, has served as “a church, an immigrant meeting hall, a boxing venue, a nickelodeon, a Yiddish vaudeville house, a hardware warehouse, a graffiti showcase, and an indie-rock playroom.” Since 2001, it’s been a great neighborhood theater showing a mix of art-house and smaller-release mainstream-independent films on five decent-size screens. Great midnight movies play, too. | 143 E. Houston St., between 1st and 2nd aves., Lower East Side | 212/260–7289 | www.landmarktheatres.com | Station: F to 2nd Ave.
Founded back in the rough-and-ready 1980s, this small theater continues to host worthy, and frequently wacked-out and hilarious, performances. Its popular HOT! Festival of Queer Performance, held in July, is the longest-running LGBTQ festival in the world. Whatever you’re seeing, the Lounge, Dixon Place’s cheerful bar, is a great place to meet up before the show and connect with artists after. | 161A Chrystie St., between Rivington and Delancey sts., Lower East Side | 212/219–0736 | www.dixonplace.org | Station: J, Z to Bowery; B, D to Grand St.; F to 2nd Ave.
GREENWICH VILLAGE AND WEST VILLAGE
Angelika Film Center.
Foreign, independent, and some mainstream films are screened here. Despite its (six) tunnel-like theaters, small screens, and the occasionally audible subway rumble below, it’s usually packed; get a snack at the café while you wait for your movie to be called. | 18 W. Houston St., at Mercer St., Greenwich Village | 212/995–2570 | www.angelikafilmcenter.com/nyc | Station: B, D, F, M to Broadway–Lafayette St.; 6 to Bleecker St.; N, R to Prince St.
Sharing the same owner as the IFC cable channel, the IFC Center shows a mix of repertory and first-run independent, art-house, shorts (including cartoons), and foreign movies. Despite the modern wire-mesh facade, there are still clues that this was once the much-beloved Waverly Theater. | 323 6th Ave., at 3rd St., Greenwich Village | 212/924–7771 | www.ifccenter.com | Station: A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W. 4th St.
Readings and Lectures
Center for Architecture.
This contemporary glass-faced gallery near Washington Square hosts lively discussions (which may be accompanied by films or other visuals) on topics like radical architecture in Mexico City or what to expect when you renovate an apartment. | 536 LaGuardia Pl., between 3rd and Bleecker sts., Greenwich Village | 212/683–0023 | www.aiany.org | Exhibits weekdays 9–8, Sat. 11–5 | Station: A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W. 4th St.
New York Studio School.
The venerable New York Studio School hosts two—always free, almost always on Tuesday and Wednesday—evening lecture series on contemporary issues in art. Hear from both emerging and established artists and curators, as well as some of the biggest names in art history and criticism. The school building served as the original location of the Whitney Museum. | 8 W. 8th St., between 5th and 6th aves., Greenwich Village | 212/673–6466 | www.nyss.org | Station: A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W. 4th St.
Fodor’s Choice | Monday Night Magic.
Since 1997, Michael Chaut and four other magician producers have been running these weekly performances in and around Greenwich Village. The acts, usually four per night, come from all over the world and often include performers you’d see in much bigger theaters and clubs on other nights. The mind-reading and sleight-of-hand with birds, cards, balls, and handkerchiefs come at a fast pace and don’t let up during intermission, when a couple additional magicians appear in the lobby and back of the theater for card tricks and other “close-up magic.” Although the acts are tailored for an adult audience, they’re also suitable for younger prestidigitators. | The Players Theatre, 115 MacDougal St., between 3rd and Bleecker sts. | 212/615–6432 | www.mondaynightmagic.com | Station: A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W. 4th St.
Skirball Center for the Performing Arts.
This pristine, wood-lined theater on the NYU campus supports emerging artists, with interesting dance, music, and theater events, often in collaboration with international companies. Conferences and even a circus or two round out the calendar, which also includes many family-friendly events. | 566 LaGuardia Pl., at Washington Sq. S, Greenwich Village | 212/998–4941 for tickets, 888/611–8183 for tickets | www.nyuskirball.org | Station: A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W. 4th St.; N, R to 8th St.–NYU.
Fodor’s Choice | Film Forum.
In addition to premiering new international features and documentaries that are otherwise hard to catch on the big screen, this nonprofit theater with three small screening rooms hosts movies by canonized directors such as Hitchcock, Godard, and Bertolucci; in-depth film series devoted to particular actors or genres; and newly restored prints of classic works. The small café in the lobby serves tasty cakes and freshly popped popcorn. This is no megaplex; be prepared for small seats and screens and a cash-only box office (credit cards can be used to buy tickets online in advance). | 209 W. Houston St., between 6th Ave. and Varick St., West Village | 212/727–8110 | www.filmforum.org | Station: 1 to Houston St.
Fodor’s Choice | Joyce Theater.
In a former Art Deco movie house in Chelsea, the 472-seat Joyce Theater has superb sightlines and presents a full spectrum of contemporary dance. Pilobolus, Ballet Hispanico, and the taut and athletic Parsons Dance are regulars in the Joyce’s always rewarding lineup, as are the ridiculous (and ridiculously talented) Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, a male troupe who perform travesties of classic works in tutus and pointe shoes—the whole nine yards. | 175 8th Ave., at 19th St., Chelsea | 212/691–9740, 212/242–0800 for tickets | www.joyce.org | Station: A, C, E to 14th St.; L to 8th Ave.
New York Live Arts.
This Chelsea space serves as the home stage for the innovative Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. It’s also a laboratory for new choreographers and artists in residence, and hosts non-choreographed events such as panel discussions. | 219 W. 19th St., between 7th and 8th aves., Chelsea | 212/691–6500, 212/924–0077 for tickets | www.newyorklivearts.org | Station: 1 to 18th St.; A, C, E, to 14th St.; L to 8th Ave.
TADA! Vibrant musical theater pieces for kids are performed by all-kid casts. Most shows are on weekends, and children’s tickets start at $10. | 15 W. 28th St., between Broadway and 5th Ave., Chelsea | 212/252–1619 | www.tadatheater.com | Station: N, R to 28th St.
Baryshnikov Arts Center.
Famed dancer and actor Mikhail Baryshnikov’s longtime vision came to fruition in this modern venue for contemporary dance and other performance. The center hosts a range of resident artists, including dancers and musical groups, as well as productions by boundary-breaking international choreographers. The vibrant programming is presented in the center’s 238-seat Jerome Robbins Theater and the 136-seat Howard Gilman Performance Space. | 450 W. 37 St., between 9th and 10th aves., Midtown West | 646/731–3200 | www.bacnyc.org | Station: A, C, E to 34th St.–Penn Station.
Fodor’s Choice | Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) films.
You’ll find some of the most engaging international film repertory around at Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters 1 and 2, in MoMA’s basement. Sometimes the films tie in with current art exhibitions; the Contenders series, which starts each fall, is a chance to catch up on the past year’s releases that are likely to win awards, or at least stand the test of time. Movie tickets are available at the museum for same-day screenings (a limited number are released up to one week in advance for an extra fee). They’re free if you have purchased museum admission ($25); otherwise they cost $12. | 11 W. 53rd St., between 5th and 6th aves.,Midtown West | 212/708–9400 | www.moma.org/visit/films | Station: E, M to 5th Ave./53rd St.; B, D, F, M to 47th–50th Sts./Rockefeller Center.
The Paris Theatre.
Across from the Plaza Hotel stands the Paris—a rare, stately remnant of the single-screen era. Opened in 1948, it retains its wide screen (and balcony) and is a fine showcase for new movies, often foreign and with a limited release. | 4 W. 58th St., between 5th and 6th aves., Midtown West | 212/688–3800 | www.theparistheatre.com | Station: N, Q, R to 5th Ave./59th St.; F to 57th St.
Its vintage is late-1960s, but the Ziegfeld Theatre is as close as you come to a classic movie-palace experience in New York today. Its chandeliers and crimson décor, raised balcony, wide screen, some 1,100 seats, good sightlines, and solid sound system make the Ziegfeld a special place to view anything it shows. Grand-opening red-carpet galas often take place here as well. | 141 W. 54th St., between 6th and 7th aves.,Midtown West | 212/765–7600 for showtimes | www.bowtiecinemas.com/locations/ziegfeld | Station: F to 57th St.; N, Q, R to 57th St.–7th Ave.; B, D, E to 7th Ave.
Fodor’s Choice | Carnegie Hall.
Carnegie Hall is, of course, one of the world’s most famous concert halls. Its incomparable acoustics make it one of the best venues in the world to hear classical music, but it’s also strong in jazz, pop, cabaret, and folk music. Since the opening-night concert on May 5, 1891, which Tchaikovsky conducted, virtually every important musician the world has known has performed in this Italian Renaissance–style building. Leonard Bernstein had his debut here; Vladimir Horowitz made his historic return to the concert stage here. The world’s top orchestras perform in the grand and fabulously steep 2,804-seat Isaac Stern Auditorium, the 268-seat Weill Recital Hall often features young talents making their New York debuts, and the subterranean 599-seat Judy and Arthur Zankel Hall attracts big-name artists such as the Kronos Quartet and Milton Nascimento to its modern and stylish space. A noted roster of family concerts is also part of Carnegie’s programming.The Carnegie box office releases $10 rush tickets for some shows on the day of performance, or you may buy partial-view seating in advance at 50% off the full ticket price. | 881 7th Ave., at 57th St., Midtown West | 212/247–7800 | www.carnegiehall.org | Station: N, Q, R to 57th St.–7th Ave.; B, D, E to 7th Ave.
The Town Hall.
Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion radio show sometimes broadcasts from this historic venue, which was founded by suffragists and built in 1921 by McKim, Mead& White. Richard Strauss, Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt, and Bob Dylan have all appeared on stage here; these days it hosts programs that include pop and rock, jazz, gospel, blues, folk, show tunes, political humor, theater, dance, and world music. | 123 W. 43rd St., between 6th and 7th aves., Midtown West | 212/840–2824, 800/982–2787 (Ticketmaster) | www.thetownhall.org | Station: 1, 2, 3, 7, N, Q, R, S to Times Sq.–42nd St.
Gotham Chamber Opera.
This opera company presents lesser-known chamber works as well as new ones in inspired productions, many of them mounted in surprising New York locations, such as St. Paul’s Chapel, the Metropolitan Museum, and among the cherry trees at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Recent standout works have included a production of Nico Muhly’s 2011 work Dark Sisters, as well as Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s Baroque opera La descente d’Orphée aux enfers, written in 1686 and never before performed in New York. | 410 W. 42nd St., between 9th and 10th aves., Midtown West | 212/868–4460 | www.gothamchamberopera.org | Station: A, C, E to 42nd St.–Port Authority.
Fodor’s Choice | New York City Center.
Pause as you enter this neo-Moorish building, built in 1923 for the Shriners (cousins of the Freemasons), and admire the beautifully ornate tile work that plasters the lobby. City Center’s 2,200-seat main stage is perfectly suited for dance and special theatrical events. The very popular Encores! series, generally in spring, revisits musicals of the past in a concert format—an event that has led to shows returning to Broadway, with the long-running Chicago among them. Tickets for City Center’s annual Fall for Dance festival sell out quickly. | 131 W. 55th St., between 6th and 7th aves., Midtown West | 212/581–1212(CityTix) | www.nycitycenter.org | Station: N, Q, R to 57th St.–7th Ave.; F to 57th St.
Radio City Music Hall.
This landmark was built shortly after the stock market crash of 1929; John D. Rockefeller wanted to create a symbol of hope in what was a sad, broke city. He partnered with the Radio Corporation of America to build a grand theater. When it opened, some said Radio City Music Hall was so grand that there was no need for performances, because people would get more than their money’s worth simply by sitting there and enjoying the space. Despite being the largest indoor theater in the world with its cityblock–long marquee, it feels warm and intimate. Hour-long “Stage Door” walking tours run year-round, but access is limited during show times. Day-of-tour tickets are sold at the Radio City Avenue Store; advance tickets are available by phone or through the website.
Although there are concerts and other events here year-round, the biggest draw is the Radio City Christmas Spectacular: more than a million visitors every year come to see the iconic Rockettes. Make reservations as early as possible, especially if you want to attend near Christmas or on a weekend. Certain dates and times tend to sell out, but you can usually find tickets for all shows until mid-October. Tickets cost a hefty $45–$299 per person for the 90-minute show, although there are often promotions and deals available, especially for nonpeak times. In 2015, Radio City premiered its New York Spring Spectacular, creating another opportunity to see a Rockettes kickline. | 1260 6th Ave., between 50th and 51st sts., Midtown West | 212/247–4777, 866/858–0007 for tickets | www.radiocity.com | Station: B, D, F, M to 47th–50th Sts./Rockefeller Center; N, Q, R to 49th St.
Readings and Lectures
LIVE from the NYPL.
The New York Public Library’s discussion series includes a rich program of lectures and reading events from the biggest names in books and culture in general. Most programs are held at the famous main library. | Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, 42nd St. at 5th Ave., Midtown West | 212/930–0855, 888/718–4253 for tickets | www.nypl.org/events/live-nypl | Station: B, D, F, M to 42nd St.–Bryant Park; 7 to 5th Ave.
Roundabout Theatre Company.
This nonprofit theatrical company is known for its revivals of classic musicals and plays, including Anything Goes and The Importance of Being Earnest. Its main stage, the American Airlines Theatre, is the former Selwyn—the venerable home to the works of Coward, Kaufman, and Porter in their heyday. The Roundabout’s other Broadway venues are Studio 54, the longtime home of its successful Cabaret revival, and the Stephen Sondheim Theatre. The two Off-Broadway stages at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre show a mix of classics and works from up-and-coming playwrights. | American Airlines Theatre, 227 W. 42nd St., between 7th and 8th aves., Midtown West | 212/719–1300 for tickets | www.roundabouttheatre.org | Station: 1, 2, 3, 7, N, Q, R, S to Times Sq.–42nd St.; A, C, E to 42nd St.–Port Authority.
New Amsterdam Theater.
In 1997 Disney refurbished the elaborate 1903 Art Nouveau New Amsterdam Theater, where Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Fred Astaire, and the Ziegfeld Follies once drew crowds. The Lion King ruled here for the first nine years of its run, followed by Mary Poppins and then Aladdin starting in 2014. | 214 W. 42nd St., between 7th and 8th aves., Midtown West | www.disneyonbroadway.com | Station: 1, 2, 3, 7, N, Q, R, S to Times Sq.–42nd St.; A, C, E to 42nd St.–Port Authority.
Fodor’s Choice | The New Victory Theater.
In a magnificently restored space from 1900, the New Victory Theater presents an international roster of supremely kid-pleasing plays, music, dance, opera, and circus performances. Through the organization’s workshops and exhibits, children and their parents can also learn more about other parts of theater (writing, for instance) and kinds of performance, such as break dancing. Count on reasonable ticket prices, high-energy and high-class productions, and the opportunity for kids to chat with the artists after many performances. | 209 W. 42nd St., between 7th and 8th aves., Midtown West | 646/223–3010 | www.newvictory.org | Station: 1, 2, 3, 7, N, Q, R, S to Times Sq.–42nd St.; A, C, E to 42nd St.–Port Authority.
Known for its support of new work by American playwrights, this Off-Broadway theater was the first home for eventual Broadway hits such as Grey Gardens and Wendy Wasserstein’s Heidi Chronicles. | 416 W. 42nd St., between 9th and 10th aves., Midtown West | 212/564–1235, 212/279–4200 for tickets | www.phnyc.org | Station: A, C, E to 42nd St.–Port Authority.
Signature Theatre Company.
Designed by the architect Frank Gehry, the company’s Pershing Square Signature Center houses three theater spaces. All tickets are $25 for a show’s initially announced run. A central space with a café and bookstore connects the theaters, so come early, or stay late; the café is open until midnight Tuesday through Sunday. | Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 W. 42nd St., between 9th and 10th aves., Midtown West | 212/244–7529 | www.signaturetheatre.org | Station: A, C, E to 42nd St.–Port Authority.
UPPER EAST SIDE
92nd Street Y.
Well-known soloists, jazz musicians, show-tune stylists, and chamber music groups perform in the 92Y’s 905-seat Kaufmann Concert Hall. But the programming is hardly limited to music—its online calendar bristles with popular lectures-and-readings series featuring big-name authors, poets, playwrights, political pundits, and media bigwigs (many events are live-streamed or archived online). Also worth the Upper East Side trek are the Harkness Dance Festival, film programs, and many family-friendly events. | 1395 Lexington Ave., at 92nd St., Upper East Side | 212/415–5500 for tickets | www.92y.org | Station: 6 to 96th St.
Fodor’s Choice | Park Avenue Armory.
Built in 1879 and occupying an entire city block, this handsome Gothic brick building was used as the headquarters, drill hall, and social club for the Seventh Regiment, a National Guard unit called the “Silk Stocking” regiment because its members were mainly drawn from wealthy GildedAge WASPs. The sumptuous interiors (like the building itself, done at members’ expense) were decorated by Louis Comfort Tiffany, Stanford White, and other fashionable designers of the time. After World War I, the armory began to decay, and its opulent rooms were in danger of ruin. Help came in the form of a major restoration that began in 2010 and is ongoing. The armory was put back into service, but this time in the service of art. The huge installations, plays, and immersive concerts here take advantage of the massive space its 55,000-square-foot (5,100-square-meter) drill hall provides. A couple standouts: the Royal Shakespeare Company summer-long series of plays, performed inside a replica of its theater in Stratford-upon-Avon, and an installation by the artist Douglas Gordon that turned the hall into a massive reflecting pool. | 643 Park Ave., between 66th and 67th sts., Upper East Side | 212/616–3930 | Station: 6 to 68th St.–Hunter College, F to Lexington Ave./63rd St.
Readings and Lectures
Works & Process.
Insight into the creative process is what the Works & Process program is all about. Often drawing on dance and theater works-in-progress, the live performances are complemented by illuminating discussions with their choreographers, playwrights, and directors. There are very popular holiday concerts, too. | Guggenheim Museum, 1071 5th Ave., at 89th St., Upper East Side | 212/423–3587 | www.worksandprocess.org | Station: 4, 5, 6 to 86th St.
UPPER WEST SIDE
Great Music in a Great Space.
This organ and choral concert series is aptly named, set in St. John the Divine’s massive,atmospheric Gothic space. Any music you come to hear at St. John the Divine will likely be an unforgettable experience, but the Christmastime programming of the Early Music New York (www.earlymusicny.org) ensemble is especially moving in this space. | The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Ave., at 112th St., Upper West Side | 212/316–7540 | www.stjohndivine.org | Station: 1, B, C to Cathedral Pkwy.–110th St.
Jazz at Lincoln Center.
A few blocks south of Lincoln Center itself, this Columbus Circle venue is almost completely devoted to jazz, with a sprinkling of other genres mixed in. Stages in Rafael Viñoly’s crisply modern Frederick P. Rose Hall include the 1,200-seat Rose Theater, where a worthy Jazz for Young People series joins buoyant adult programming a few times each year. Also here is the Allen Room, an elegant theater with a glass wall overlooking Columbus Circle, and the smaller Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, where there are two sets nightly, and often more that go late into the night. All are accompanied by a full bar and restaurant here. | Time Warner Center, 10 Columbus Circle, Broadway at 60th St., Upper West Side | 212/258–9800 | www.jazz.org | Station: 1, A, B, C, D to 59th St.–Columbus Circle.
Merkin Concert Hall at Kaufman Music Center.
A destination for both old-school and cutting-edge musical performances, this concert hall around the corner from Lincoln Center is a lovely, acoustically advanced 450-seater that presents chamber pieces. It’s also known for jazz, world, new music, and especially its Ecstatic Music Festival in January, when an eclectic group of indie-classical artists more than lives up to its billing. | 129 W. 67th St., between Broadway and Amsterdam Ave., Upper West Side | 212/501–3300 | www.kaufmanmusiccenter.org/mch | Station: 1 to 66th St.–Lincoln Center.
Adventurous programming of jazz, classical, early and modern music, and dance makes up the calendar at this university theater, founded in 1988. A well-designed 688-seater, this is a hall that rewards serious listeners. | Columbia University, 2960 Broadway, at 116th St., Upper West Side | 212/854–1633, 212/854–7799 for box office | www.millertheatre.com | Station: 1 to 116th St.–Columbia University.
Fodor’s Choice | Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.
This massive and somewhat fortresslike, white travertine-clad complex contains 23 theaters, as well as the Juilliard School, the New York City Ballet, the Film Center of Lincoln Center, and a branch of the New York Public Library, making it one of the most concentrated places for the performing arts in the nation. Its 16-acre campus, planned by the master architect Philip Johnson and built as part of an urban-renewal effort, arose over the course of several years from 1962 to 1969; some 40 years later, it was given a thorough remodeling to better integrate into the neighborhood.
To get oriented, start across the street, on Broadway between 62nd and 63rd streets, at the David Rubenstein Atrium. There you’ll find free Wi-Fi, tables, a café, free concerts (Thursday at 7:30 pm) and that rarest of NYC commodities, a public restroom. In addition, discounted day-of-show tickets for many Lincoln Center venues may be purchased in person here; there is a limit of four tickets per customer, and the amount of discount depends on the performance. Because the box office is closed on Monday, any available tickets for Monday performances are sold on Sunday.
The acoustics in Alice Tully Hall are top-notch; the hall’s primary resident is the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (www.chambermusicsociety.org). Avery Fisher Hall is home to the New York Philharmonic (www.nyphil.org); the season is late September to late June. Orchestra rehearsals are open to the public on selected weekday mornings ($20, usually Wednesday or Thursday). A popular Young People’s Concert series takes place Saturday afternoon, four times throughout the season.
The largest hall, the Metropolitan Opera House is notable for its dramatic arched entrance as well as its lobby’s immense Swarovski crystal chandeliers and Marc Chagall paintings, both of which can be seen from outside later in the day. The titan of American opera companies and an institution since its founding in 1883, the Metropolitan Opera (www.metopera.org) brings the world’s leading singers to the vast stage here from September to May. All performances, including those sung in English, are subtitled on small screens on the back of the seat in front of you. Also resident at the Met is the American Ballet Theatre (www.abt.org), renowned for its gorgeous full-program renditions of the 19th-century classics (Swan Lake, Giselle, The Sleeping Beauty) with choreography reenvisioned by 20th-century or contemporary masters. A limited number of same-day $20 rush orchestra seats are available at the Met’s website. These tickets go on sale for Sunday through Friday evening performances at noon, for matinees four hours before curtain, and for Saturday evenings at 2 pm.
The David H. Koch Theater is the home of the formidable New York City Ballet (www.nycballet.com), and has an unmatched repertoire of 20th-century works, predominantly by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, and Peter Martins. The company particularly excel at short-form programs. Their fall season starts in September and early October, then returns in late November through December for their beloved annual production of Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. Their winter repertory program runs in January and February, and a spring season runs from April into May. Sharing the theater is a mix of other internationally famous dance troupes.
The Lincoln Center Theater complex houses the Vivian Beaumont Theater, the smaller Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, and the rooftop Claire Tow Theater, which has 131 seats and a small outdoor terrace.
The auditorium of the Walter Reade Theater (www.filmlinc.com) shows film series devoted to “the best in world cinema,” including silents, documentaries, retrospectives and recent releases, often on the same theme or from the same country. The Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center has two small screening rooms, a café, and an amphitheater that hosts lectures and panel discussions.
In addition to extensive musical and theatrical holding, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts mounts periodic exhibitions related to major artists and composers. At the library’s free Silent Clowns series (www.silentclowns.com), held Sunday afternoon in its auditorium from September to May, rarely seen prints of the silent era’s comedy masters are paired with live piano music.
Tours of Lincoln Center, including the Met, take place daily and leave from the atrium; reservations are recommended and can be made from the website or in person. They do not include backstage areas but sometimes do include parts of the auditoriums. Backstage tours of the Met ($22) are held during the performance season. | From 62nd to 66th St. , between Broadway/Columbus and Amsterdam aves., Upper West Side | 212/875–5000 for main switchboard, 212/721–6500 (CenterCharge) | www.lincolncenter.org | David Rubinstein Atrium: weekdays 8 am–10 pm, weekends 9 am–10 pm | Station: 1 to 66th St.–Lincoln Center.
Although Symphony Space runs an energetic roster of classical, jazz, international, and other kinds of music, it also excels with many other kinds of art programming. On the literary front, its two halls—the Peter Jay Sharp Theatre and the Leonard Nimoy Thalia—host a celebrated roster of literary events, including Bloomsday on Broadway, the Thalia Book Club, and the famed Selected Shorts series: stories read by prominent actors and broadcast live on National Public Radio. Plays, films, and “Thalia Docs” on Sunday (usually true-to-their-roots art-house screenings) round out the adult programming. For the family, turn to their hugely popular Just Kidding lineup for a nonstop parade of zany plays, sing-alongs, midday Saturday (and sometimes Sunday) movies, and animation. | 2537 Broadway, at 95th St., Upper West Side | 212/864–5400 | www.symphonyspace.org | Station: 1, 2, 3 to 96th St.
Shakespeare in the Park.
Some of the best things in New York are, indeed, free—including this summer festival presented by the Public Theater and performed at an open-air stage in Central Park. Many notable performers have appeared here, including Meryl Streep, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Helen Hunt, Morgan Freeman, Al Pacino, Anne Hathaway, and Kevin Kline. The tickets are given out (limit two per person) starting at noon on the day of each show, and always sell out. What you save in money, you make up for in time and tedium—lines are usually long. Plan to line up by midmorning or earlier if there have been good reviews. The easiest way to score these scarce tickets is to register via an online lottery between midnight and noon on the day you’d like to attend; an email response after noon confirms (or denies) success. Making a donation to the Public Theater is one way to avoid the lines and be sure you get a ticket. | Delacorte Theater, Central Park, midpark near 81st St., Upper West Side | 212/539–8500 | www.shakespeareinthepark.org | Free | Station: B, C to 81st St.–Museum of Natural History.
Michael Jackson, Ella Fitzgerald, and James Brown are just a few of the world-class performers who have appeared on this equally famed stage, which first opened back in 1934 and is Harlem’s oldest surviving stage. If the Apollo’s Amateur Night doesn’t get you up to 125th Street, consider its more intimate Apollo Music Café events on Friday and Saturday nights, featuring a variety of underground jazz, pop, hip-hop, and rock performers. | 253 W. 125th St., at Frederick Douglass Blvd., Harlem | 212/531–5300, 800/745–3000 for tickets (Ticketmaster) | www.apollotheater.org | Station: 2, 3, A, B, C, D to 125th St.
Set in a perfectly restored 1890 Croton Aqueduct facility, Harlem Stage is a cozy 192-seat uptown venue for jazz, world music, and dance. | The Gatehouse, 150 Convent Ave., at 135th St., Harlem | 212/281–9240 | www.harlemstage.org | Station: B, C to 135th St.; 1 to 137th St.–City College.
Fodor’s Choice | Spectacle Theater.
The movies are projected from DVDs, the refreshments are strictly BYO, and the air conditioning’s spotty or nonexistent at this tiny storefront theater, which with just 30 seats would fit inside many living rooms. It’s the crazy variety that’s the draw here, and the programs its all-volunteer staff create always have lots to offer the adventurous, especially if your tastes run to obscure Italian horror, kung-fu (double features on Sunday!), pop-culture documentaries, and the utterly unclassifiable. And with tickets so cheap, it’s easy to take a flier. | 124 S. 3rd St., at Bedford Ave., Williamsburg | www.spectacletheater.com | $5 | Station: L to Bedford Ave.; J, M, Z to Marcy Ave.
Fodor’s Choice | Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM).
Founded in 1861, BAM is a multiuse performing arts center spanning three Instagram-worthy edifices, including the seven-story, Beaux Arts Peter Jay Sharp building. Facilities include an unadorned “black box” theater, dance venues, a four-screen movie theater, an opera house, a ballroom, and a café. Cyclists park in style at the David Byrne–designed bike rack on Lafayette Avenue between St. Felix Street and Ashland Place. | 30 Lafayette Ave., Fort Greene | 718/636–4100 | www.bam.org | Station: 2, 3, 4, 5, B, D, N, Q, R at Atlantic Ave.–Barclays Center.
Finely detailed wooden marionettes and hand puppets are on the bill at Puppetworks. Kid-friendly performances like The Prince and the Magic Flute come to life on weekends in this 75-seat neighborhood theater. Reservations are required; credit cards are not accepted. | 338 6th Ave., at 4th St., Park Slope | 718/965–3391 | www.puppetworks.org | Station: F, G to 7th Ave.
Fodor’s Choice | St. Ann’s Warehouse.
Everyone from Marianne Faithfull to August Wilson has played St. Ann’s, a veritable arts arena that has commissioned cutting-edge theater, music, and a surprising amount of high-art puppeteering since 1980. The venue is set to relocate to a stunningly refurbished, 1860 tobacco warehouse in Brooklyn Bridge Park in time for the 2015 fall season. | Tobacco Warehouse, 45 Water St., DUMBO | 718/254–8779 | www.stannswarehouse.org | Station: A, C to High St.; F to York St.
This “cozy floating concert hall moored just south of the Brooklyn Bridge,” as the New York Times once described it, keeps chamber music groups busy year-round on a renovated harbor barge that has a fabulous view of the Manhattan skyline. Since you really are on the water, you probably want to skip this if susceptible to seasickness. | Fulton Ferry Landing, Old Fulton and Furman sts., Brooklyn Heights | 718/624–4924 | www.bargemusic.org | Station: A, C to High St.; F to York St.; 2, 3 to Clark St.
Museum of the Moving Image Films.
Video art, digital screenings, live musical collaborations, and in-person appearances by moviemaker luminaries join retrospectives and themed repertory such as Chuck Jones cartoons, Recovered Treasures (from world archives), or Avant-Garde Masters. Daily short films are screened in Tut’s Fever Movie Palace, a fab Red Grooms and Lysiane Luong–designed installation. Weekend Family Film matinees make this museum a great choice for kids. | 3601 35th Ave., at 37th St., Astoria | 718/784–0077 | www.movingimage.us | Station: M, R to Steinway St.; N, Q to 36th Ave.
New York’s Film Festivals
New York’s extreme diversity is what makes it a cinephile’s heaven: you find dozens of festivals for niche interests and those just wanting to be at the front end of what’s out there. New releases and premieres dominate the festival scene, but the city has its share of retrospective events, especially in summer.
The city’s preeminent film event is the annual New York Film Festival (www.filmlinc.com), sponsored by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, from late September into October. Screenings are announced more than a month in advance and often sell out quickly. Film venues are usually Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall and Walter Reade Theater. In January, the Film Society join forces with the Jewish Museum to produce the New York Jewish Film Festival (www.nyjff.org); in March they join MoMA to present New Directors/New Films (www.newdirectors.org), and June brings their collaboration on the Human Rights Watch Film Festival (ff.hrw.org).
The Tribeca Film Festival (www.tribecafilm.com/festival) takes place in mostly downtown venues for about two weeks starting mid-April and shows mainstream premieres along with indie flicks, as well as a Family Festival, which attracts big crowds to its street fair and movies for all ages.
Fans also flock to other noteworthy annuals like the Asian American International Film Festival (www.asiancinevision.org) from late July to early August; and the Margaret Mead Film Festival (www.amnh.org/explore/margaret-mead-film-festival) and DOC NYC (www.docnyc.net), two November festivals that both focus on documentaries from all over.
For kids, the year-round programs of the New York International Children’s Film Festival (NYICFF) (www.gkids.com) peak in March with an extravaganza of about 100 new films and videos for ages 3–18.
Summer in New York sees a bonanza of alfresco film; screenings are usually free (but arrive early to secure a space; screenings begin at dusk). The HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival (212/512–5700 | www.bryantpark.org) shows classic films at sundown on Mondays, June–August. The Hudson River Park RiverFlicks (www.riverflicks.org) series in July and August has movies for grown-ups on Wednesday evening on Pier 63; RiverFlicks for kids are at Pier 46 on Friday. The Upper West Side has Summer on the Hudson (www.nycgovparks.org) with Wednesday night screenings on Pier 1, near West 70th Street. Rooftop Films’ (www.rooftopfilms.com) Underground Movies Outdoors is more eclectic than most other film series, with shows outdoors in summer on rooftops in all five boroughs. Check their schedule for off-season screenings as well. On Thursday nights in summer, check out Movies with a View in Brooklyn Bridge Park (www.brooklynbridgepark.org).
NYC Film Series and Revivals
Although many of the screens listed here show first-run releases, old favorites and rarities are the heart of their programing. These gems—which include just about every kind of film, from silent and noir to the most au courant experimental work—are frequently screened at museums, cultural societies, and other institutions, such as the French Institute (212/355–6100 | www.fiaf.org), Scandinavia House (212/779–3587 | www.scandinaviahouse.org), and major branches of the New York Public Library (www.nypl.org). A reliably creative range of repertory screenings can always be found at Anthology Film Archives (212/505–5181 | www.anthologyfilmarchives.org), Film Forum (212/727–8110 | www.filmforum.org), the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) (212/708–9400 | www.moma.org), the Museum of the Moving Image (718/784–0077 | www.movingimage.us), the Brooklyn Academy of Music (718/636–4100 | www.bam.org), and Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater (212/875–5600 | www.filmlinc.com).