10 Alternative Performing Arts Events in NYC | Jumping Off Point

Caitrin Sneed

There is no shortage of options for those seeking a performing arts experience in New York City, especially in the summer. Broadway shows, Lincoln Center, The Joyce, BAM and Shakespeare in the Park are obvious and worthy places to start your search but for those who feel they’ve sufficiently experienced some of the more mainstream theater options in New York: here are ten jumping off points for exploring more alternative performing arts in NYC this summer.

Marissa Nielsen-Pincus (Alice) and Tara O’Con (Alice)

Then She Fell

Then She Fell will break down your assumptions of how theater should be done. This immersive experience goes beyond audience participation and instead asks audience members to physically explore the created landscape individually. This theatrical experience is intricately designed so each audience member discovers the story unfolding in front of them in a highly individualized way. Like choose your own adventure but where the story combines ‘a hospital ward, the writings of Lewis Carroll, and just 15 audience members per show as well as a superb cast of performers. Audience members must be 21+ except on some nights where the age restriction is dropped to 18. This is due to beverages that are dolled out throughout the show, almost all of which are alcoholic.

The Kingsland Ward at St. Johns, 195 Maujer Street, Brooklyn, New York, NY, USA, +1 718 374 5196


While spectacle is frankly part of the fun of opera, the social formality and stuffiness associated with the art form can deter some. Enter LoftOpera, the intimate opera experience in Brooklyn that does away with the opera house, seating assignments and dress codes while maintaining a high level of musical excellence and reverence to the iconic scores of Puccini and Mozart. LoftOpera typically performs in warehouse spaces with tickets that are more affordable than larger opera companies in New York like The Metropolitan Opera. For opera lovers who want to view their favorites through a new lens or for people who have always thought they hated opera, check out LoftOpera this summer at Industry City, dates TBD.

Location dependent on current production.

Clement Mensah and Mira Cook; Battery Dance Company

1. Battery Dance Festival


Come to Robert F. Wagner, Jr. Park on August 15th through the 20th for the Battery Dance Festival. A downtown dance festival featuring an innovative and diverse lineup of New York City companies and international companies. Highlights to look forward to include the Buglisi Dance Theatre, Battery Dance Company, Indelible Dance Company and Jennifer Muller/The Works. All performances are free to the public.

2. Shakespeare in the Parking Lot


Courtesy of 'George & Co'
Shakespeare in the Park is a summer tradition in New York. Shakespeare in the Parking Lot is an awesome twist on it. Foregoing celebrity casting and semi-ridiculous ticketing system (because of how you have to wait in line to acquire a ticket), Shakespeare in the Parking Lot’s productions of Shakespeare’s plays re-imagined and revitalized are free, open to the public and performed – you guessed it – in a parking lot. The 2015 season includes As You Like It and Macbeth.

Ice Factory

Ice Factory is an Obie award-winning summer festival made up of completely new theater works. Running from June 24 to August 8, this festival hosted by the New Ohio Theatre is an essential part of any theater-lover’s summer must-see list. While more conventionally structured than some of the other options on this list, Ice Factory is sure to intellectually challenge theater-goers and fellow artists while presenting radical ideas and pushing the accepted boundaries of theater. Ice Factory is wonderful as a stand-alone experience but also acts as an introduction to the New Ohio Theatre community.

New Ohio Theatre, 154 Christopher Street, New York, New York, USA, +1 212 675 6446

River to River

For site-specific movement pieces, re-appropriation of public space and a dance festival that will expose you to new ways of using movement as art check out River to River in Lower Manhattan until the end of June. Performance venues include Pier 15, the Fulton Center and Robert F. Wagner Jr. Park (where you can catch the Trisha Brown Dance Company). Though the festival itself is short, don’t be surprised if you discover an artist whose work you’ll follow for years to come.

Multiple performance locations.

Sleep No More

3. Sleep No More


‘Sleep No More’ is an interactive adaptation of Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’
© Matteo Prandoni / BFA / REX / Shutterstock
If you’re looking for a crazy night of theater that last for hours, where you get separated from your party, will never see the same show twice if you return and can genuinely wonder at some point if you are having a weird acid trip, go see Sleep No More. If all those things seem terrifying to you, be forewarned that you will not enjoy the safety of a seat in a dark theater… but still go. This retelling of Macbeth utilizes dance, time and space to give audience members an immersive experience. Unlike at a conventional theater where you sit and watch the play unfold in front of you, audience members walk and are individually guided through The McKittrick Hotel, observing scenes out of order and witnessing private scenes that no one else that night may see.

4. Celebrate Brooklyn!


While most people who are familiar with Celebrate Brooklyn! will praise it for its musical offerings (for good reason), this series held in Prospect Park also consistently provides a rich lineup of dance and spoken word artists. For those looking to enjoy dance that is presented in a slightly more formal way than at River to River but still want a less mainstream alternative to ABT, Celebrate Brooklyn! has a great sampling of artists to come see. Celebrate Brooklyn! runs through August so you have plenty of opportunities to catch a great concert, see some dance (be sure to catch Ohad Naharin and dancers from the Batsheva Dance Company) and find your new favorite artist.

5. Game Play Festival at The Brick


Nerds rejoice! The Game Play Festival at The Brick is a two-week theater festival in July that features ‘cutting-edge works that lie at the intersection of video gaming and performance’. Slightly grungy, right by a great diner and showing work different from any musical you’ll see on Broadway this summer, The Brick is a venue you don’t want to miss and Game Play Festival is a lot of fun for all the gamer/theater-nerd hybrids out there.

6. Hot! Festival


Dixon Place, New York
© Giacomo Carena/Flickr
Dixon Place is a hub for innovative new theater in New York and the Hot! Festival, a 24 year-old celebration of Queer Culture and LGBTQ theater is a great introduction to it. Check out Hot! this July through early August for a line-up of Queer-centric theater, dance, literature and performance art.
Caitrin Sneed

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