A Guide to Boston's Theater Scene

| © Ron Cogswell
Harry Gustafson

Boston has a vibrant arts community filled with eager young talent, especially in its dramatic circles. Theater and performing arts are a massive hit in the city with numerous spaces hosting shows, whether on college campuses such as Boston University and Emerson College, or in the downtown Theater District. Check out our guide to the city’s renowned theaters and some less traditional performance spaces.

1. Huntington Theater


huntington theatre boston theatre
© The Huntington

The Huntington is Boston’s leading professional theater and is affiliated with Boston University. In 2013, it won a Regional Tony Award for being one of the best theaters in the area. Since its foundation in 1982, it has worked closely with members of its fellowship program to develop original pieces, having premiered over 100 plays in this time. Mainstage productions at the Huntington have featured some notable names in recent years, such as Nick Offerman (Ron from Parks and Recreation), who starred in A Confederacy of Dunces.

2. American Repertory Theatre (A.R.T.)


Known as the A.R.T., this professional non-profit theater in Harvard Square puts on modern shows in its main facility, the Loeb Drama Center. The A.R.T. also owns and operates nearby OBERON, a second stage that has more of a leaning towards nightlife, especially on Saturday nights when it puts on The Donkey Show, a twist on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream with disco music and a lot of glitter. Recent productions at the A.R.T. have featured high-profile names including Bryan Cranston and James Earl Jones in major roles.

3. Paramount Theatre


paramount theatre boston theatre
© Ron Cogswell

Originally opened as a movie theater in the 1930s, the Paramount was renovated in the mid-2000s by Emerson College. Now, it contains three separate performance spaces for mainstage productions, black box theater, and film screenings. There are also rehearsal studios, offices, practice rooms and a restaurant within the updated facility. The marquee at the front of the building makes for one of the most vibrant facades in the city.

4. Strand Theatre


This former vaudeville house in Upham’s Corner, Dorchester, has a very important legacy as a neighborhood theater. In its history, it has hosted all manner of performances, locally-written plays, and community events. In 2014, the theater added a newly-renovated art gallery to honor black veterans. Currently owned by the city of Boston, the future of the Strand has been in doubt in recent years. The local community is trying its hardest to maintain the theater’s historical standing, and in the meantime, productions are still going up regularly.

5. Boston Playwright's Theatre


The Playwrights Theatre was founded in 1981 by Derek Walcott, a famous playwright and Nobel Laureate from the Caribbean. It operates in collaboration with the Boston University School of Theatre to produce plays from alumni of the M.F.A. playwriting program. Since 1999, it has produced the annual Boston Theater Marathon, where about 50 local theater companies showcase a series of 10-minute plays.

6. Boston Opera House


boston opera house boston theatre
© Bill Damon / Flickr

This baroque theater in Boston’s Theater District—located downtown around Boylston Street and the campus of Emerson College—was originally opened in 1928, and underwent restorations in the mid-2000s. It hosts the Boston Ballet’s performance of The Nutcracker each November and December. With its ornate interior designs and intricate productions, the Opera House is Boston’s fanciest theater.

7. Sanders Theatre


This landmark theater is located in Memorial Hall—listed on the National Register of Historic Places—on the campus of Harvard. Built in the 1870s, the historic facility hosts plays, as well as notable speakers and occasional musicians. The theater’s church-like interior allows it to have a very intimate atmosphere with great acoustics. This is one of the best places to go if you’re a fan of classical music and opera.

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