The Best of New York City Theatre News and Blogs

The Best of New York City Theatre News and Blogs
Photo by Andre Benz / Unsplash

The mecca of theatre and improv in the modern age has to be New York City, and that would obviously mean that community theatre is an integral part of New York's cultural identity. As a hub for some of the most significant theatre productions in the world, the Big Apple has a rich history of stage performances that date back to the early 19th century, from the peppering of exotic immigrants that we talked about in our Chicago Theatre History post. Like our Chicago Theatre blogs review post where we picked out our favorite blogs, here we’ll do something similar for New York, but we’ll also dip our toes into the New York Theatre publication culture’s rich history (and commend their modern digital equivalents). Any publication companies that are still around know that traditional forms of print journalism still play a crucial role in the theatre industry, but that theatre blogs have naturally evolved as a popular way to keep tabs on what’s happening on and around Broadway or community theatre in general. In this article we’ll touch on the most prominent theatre blogs and theatre related news sources in New York, providing an overview of their strengths and impact. As Broadway is synonymous with theatre in New York City, and as the premier destination for some of the most ambitious and commercially successful productions, Broadway has an extensive and loyal fan base that eagerly awaits news and updates about upcoming shows (outside of the prominent New York Times following). While past Fourth Wall Tickets blog posts have been about community theatre, there’s no harm in paying homage to Broadway. Let’s start by tipping our hat to the OGs; a few of the biggest and most reviewed Broadway news sites are Playbill, Broadway World, and Broadway News.

Playbill is easily one of the oldest and most respected theatre publications in the United States, started in 1884 when Frank Vance Strauss founded the New York Theatre Program Corporation. The Playbill standardized the display of advertisements next to show information, which made the theatre leaflets more like magazines. This new design became popular with audiences to the point of patrons collecting playbills like Pokemon cards. By 1924, Playbill was printing over 16M programs for over 60 theaters. The magazine also popularized a consistent format it used for all theaters and shows; a ‘wraparound’ section to cover new plays, actors, and production staff in detail, a ‘At This Theatre’ section to share historical information about the theater, and an iconic yellow banner with black writing. is the natural digital extension of the print publication, and it is one of the most widely read Broadway blog/news sites in the country. The website has cool crisp picture uploads of every page of all physical playbills for current shows, and organizes the content in a very accessible and digestible way. The site has a handy weekly schedule of current shows, detailed revenue metrics for all relevant Broadway shows, and even a Playbill generator if you wanted to make your own. The site also boasts a ‘vault’ of all iconic Playbill publications, among other things, and is definitely worth using before your next theatre escapade as producer or patron.

Broadway World is another popular theatre blog that covers all aspects of the stage industry, from Broadway to regional productions. It’s more of a theatre news website than a blog, but it’s definitely worth mentioning as a resource for patrons and owners alike. The site is going on 20 years old, having been founded in 2003. By 2018 the Broadway World site had a 5.5 million monthly visitor count. The atmosphere is a bit more lax than with the Playbill, as evident by the user chosen awards and public forum message boards. The site gets a major plus for having an international section, making the site useful for patrons in other developed countries. Similar to Playbill’s site, Broadway World has a 355k+ performances count database of Broadway information, and also has a ‘Stage Mag’ generator (basically a Playbill that says ‘Stage Mag’ instead).

Broadway News is a relatively new addition to the theatre blogging scene, having been started by Broadway Briefing in 2017 with its first cached page dating back to mid 2019. Most notably the site has had consistent contributions by Charles Isherwood, a former chief theater critic for Variety and The New York Times. The Broadway News website provides a fairly straightforward post tagging system and a consistent trail of reviews from a talented team of critics. They also seem to have a strong social media presence with solid engagement.

These three Broadway blog style news sites alone are valuable tools to check when wanting to be briefed or debriefed on current shows. Playbill's iconic history makes it a wonderful choice for when the high brow mood strikes, and Broadway World's coverage of international productions means scoping out the extra exotic productions is but a click away. Obviously theatre isn’t just about big-budget productions on Broadway. Off-Broadway productions typically offer a more intimate theatre experience and provide a platform for young, budding artists to showcase their work and make an impact. Let’s explore some blog style sites that like to review more Off-Broadway productions and learn more about this wonderful industry. For those just tuning in, ‘Off-Broadway’ is a term used to describe theatre productions in New York City that take place in venues with a seating capacity between 100 and 499. Many of these venues can be found operating in the same physical building, busily providing stepping stones for emerging artists and charging us all to bear witness.

Believe it or not, the /r/theatre and /r/broadway ( and respectively) subreddits are great for keeping up on community theatre and On/Off Broadway related events. They may not have reviews, but there are plenty of posts where users are discussing what the best blog or news site is when it comes to theatre. Here is a great post of links to get the curious readers started. Keep in mind that Reddit can be subject to manipulation from advertising campaigns, so always cast a wide net when seeking new information. To be more specific and to provide an example, certain reddit comments or posts may for instance be artificially upvoted to promote Ben Brantley at the New York Times over other critics… or that comment may just be voted so highly because he’s a popular critic. Make sure to look at the average upvoted comment or post on the subreddit and take it all in with a grain of salt.

An iconic NYC theatre news site that’s slightly more formal is Time Out New York (TONY for short). Time Out started as a radical magazine publication in London 1968, but has since evolved to be more moderate and has successful print ventures in over 40 major cities. Almost all of those cities have a corresponding Time Out website for a digital version of each release. TONY’s website and Time Out in general obviously isn’t a grassroots blog, in fact the Time Out media company boasts over 450 employees, but it’s a historic news site in its own right with a good handle on the broadway and theatre industry. The Theater section is full of reviews and opinion pieces, and it’s likely you’ve heard about or browsed a Time Out page before reading about it here. What can we say? Time Out’s website layout is memorable and brings back Chicago Tribune RedEye vibes.

There are sites like New York Theatre Guide and New York City Theatre, among others, and while Broadway and Off-Broadway productions often receive the lion's share of attention in the theatre community, independent productions (Off Off Broadway) are also an essential part of the New York City theatre scene. Independent productions can be found in small theatres, pop-up spaces, and even in the streets of New York City. And independent critic blogs are a great way to hear from boots on the ground that frequent these shows. As we’ve written about before, these are the titans, the hard fighting, hard nosed patrons that are in love with the game enough to keep us all on the same page with little to no pay. These can be hard to find but are like diamonds in the ruff.  Jonathan Mandell provides an excellent example with his blog site, and teams of critics show us how it’s done through blog sites like New York Stage Review. New York Stage Review is active enough that it’s common to see at least three or four reviews by various critics on the same productions.

If you haven’t noticed, we’ve covered Broadway, Off Broadway, and a bit of Beyond Broadway or ‘Off Off Broadway’, but haven’t touched on the New York Improv or Comedy scene yet. Well you’re in luck, because now that we’ve gotten the proverbial Broadway cat out of the bag (wrong analogy), we can focus on its fun and beautifully goofy sister, improv theatre. But you’re also out of luck, because there aren’t very many blogs that focus exclusively on improv comedy (that would be an interesting blog though), or improv comedy at all for that matter! Don’t fret because there are plenty of popular comedy venues in NYC worth learning about. If you’re in the city, make sure to check out The Second City, The Magnet Theater, and The Peoples Improv Theater (PIT). Fun and funny fact, The PIT was founded in 2002 by legendary Adult Swim Delocated star Ali Reza Farahnakian.

The New York City improv and comedy scene offers a unique on-the-fly form of entertainment that can't be found in traditional theatre productions, so the communication styles from these theatres can be expected to be improvisational in nature as well. Don’t be afraid to check out NYC comedy Facebook groups for upcoming shows and volunteer opportunities, oftentimes social media posts are more reliable than the venue website. Whether you're a die-hard comedy fan or just looking for a fun night out, there's something for everyone in the New York City improv and comedy scene. You could easily spend weeks exploring venues. By the way if you see a venue that would benefit from a ticketing overhaul, mention Fourth Wall Tickets! We specialize in small to medium sized venues.

Theatre blogs have come a long way since their inception, and their future looks bright. As more and more people turn to the internet for news and entertainment, theatre blogs are poised to become an even more important part of the cultural landscape. One trend that we see continuing is the rise of video content. With platforms like YouTube and TikTok becoming increasingly popular, we believe that theatre blogs will start incorporating more video content into their coverage. This could include interviews with actors and directors, behind-the-scenes footage of rehearsals, and even live-streamed performances. Imagine a Youtube channel that pumps out theatre related ‘Shorts’ (0-60 second clips), they would absolutely crush in terms of eyeballs grabbed. Another trend that we see continuing is the emphasis on diversity and inclusion. Theatre has traditionally been a predominantly white and male-dominated industry, but we see this changing quite dramatically as more voices from marginalized communities are being heard, and quite consistently! The efforts have helped keep alive cultures and subcultures that would have otherwise disappeared, and there’s obviously more work to be done.  It’s important to note that independent theatre blogs are an awesome way to promote diversity (by engaging your unique opinion and voice with the industry) and highlight the work of underrepresented artists. If you’re a consistent show patron, the community would love to hear your feedback and would be enriched by it, so consider giving it a try.

We mentioned earlier in this article how venues that have survived the transition to the digital age have learned and worked hard to have an engaging presence to survive and thrive. Now we’re seeing a further metamorphosis as theatre blogs are slowly becoming even more interactive, through a myriad of social media accounts and web apps. As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, the COVID-19 pandemic called on theatres to be more resourceful than ever, and the heavy incentives of properly executed digital promotions became more apparent than ever. Platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram let venue audiences interact with actors, directors, and other theatre professionals in real-time, and ticket management tools like Fourth Wall Tickets lets theatres operate freely and seamlessly with their patrons and students. It’s all coming down to how theatres can best leverage these platforms to engage with their audiences and provide more opportunities for dialogue and feedback. Fun fact: theatres that switch to Fourth Wall Tickets see an uptick in donations due to the convenient placement and smooth integration of a donation field during checkout. And another fun fact for having read this far down; Fourth Wall Tickets is looking to deploy a forum style communication board for theatres to interact and cross-pollinate.

As the industry continues to evolve, we see theatre blogs adapting and changing to meet the needs of their audiences, but exactly how is anyone's guess. Whether you're a theatre professional or simply a fan of the arts, there's never been a better time to explore the world of theatre and start your own related blog! Better yet, open a theatre, use Fourth Wall Tickets, and give us a shoutout on YOUR theatre blog!