7 Captivating Live Theater Experiences

You don't have to travel to Broadway to see energetic musicals, daring new plays, fun childrens' shows, and reinterpretations of the classics. These theaters range from small urban venues to sprawling outdoor amphitheaters, and all are committed to connecting with audiences and showing them the magic that can come from actors putting their passion into live performance. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

7 Opportunities to Experience the Magic of the Theater

Organization Location
Double Edge Theatre Ashfield, MA
Philadelphia Theatre Company Philadelphia, PA
Great River Shakespeare Festival Winona, MN
Axis Theatre Company New York, NY
The Public Theatre Lewiston, ME
New England Youth Theatre Brattleboro, VT
Sacramento Theatre Company Sacramento, CA

The Summer Spectacle Immersion Program at The Double Edge Theatre Farm Center

Facts about Live Theater in the U.S.

Behind the Scenes at the Great River Shakespeare Festival

In Depth

Thrilling and experiential, theater gives spectators the unique ability to watch sensational drama unfold right in front of them. In the space in which they sit, stories come alive as actors perform scenes in real time, with dynamic set design and music contributing to a powerful feeling of immersion. Offering a diversity of adventurous plays and musicals, the groups included on this list reflect the abundant possibilities of such a singular artistic medium. For patrons fond of the performing arts, here are, in no particular order, seven organizations producing theatrical experiences that enthrall, challenge, and inspire.

At #1 is Double Edge Theatre. Established in Boston in 1982, Double Edge is an artist-run organization that creates innovative, visceral theatrical performances. Now situated on a former dairy farm in Ashfield, Massachusetts, the group uses its sustainable location as a hub for global touring, community productions, theatre training, and farming projects. In addition, it hosts an assortment of public programs and events, including presentations of works by resident and guest artists, and a conversation series that engages diverse community members.

Fueled by imagination and cross-disciplinary collaboration, Double Edge's performances take place both indoors and at site-specific locations around the world, and offer immersive experiences that blur the line between actors and spectators. Central to nurturing the group's creative practice are its intensive programs and workshops, which involve physical training, improvisation, and the development of multi-media works. Also significant is the Ohketeau Cultural Center, a communal space on the Double Edge property designed to foster creativity and collaboration among indigenous people. To support emerging creators, donate to one of the group's scholarship funds.

Central to nurturing the group's creative practice are its intensive programs and workshops, which involve physical training, improvisation, and the development of multi-media works.

For #2 we have Philadelphia Theatre Company, which is dedicated to producing and presenting adventurous, entertaining contemporary theater that focuses on American themes. Housed in the Suzanne Roberts Theatre on the city's thriving Avenue of the Arts, it works to cultivate a culturally diverse audience of patrons by developing shows that are exciting, thought-provoking, and socially resonant. With an emphasis on the modern American playwright, PTC presents myriad Philadelphia and world premieres of plays and musicals, a large portion of which continue on to New York and other major markets.

Included among PTC's world premiere productions are works by illustrious artists such as Terrence McNally, David Ives, Christopher Durang, and Billy Porter. To ensure that its shows are accessible to all audiences, the company offers open captioning, as well as audio description and sensory performances. It also engages students and teachers through resources including study guides, group discounts, and opportunities to meet with cast members and company leadership. Help realize PTC's mission of promoting the city and the future of American theater by making a contribution to its annual fund.

Showing up at #3 is the Great River Shakespeare Festival. A professional Equity theater company located in Winona, Minnesota, GRSF strives to enrich people's lives through vividly realized, accessible productions of Shakespeare's plays. Over a six-week long summer season, it takes on a range of famous works with the goal of engaging diverse audiences, sparking conversation, and invigorating community life. To further involve and inspire the public, the company offers an array of education programs for people of all ages, as well as employment and training opportunities for aspiring theatrical professionals.

Over a six-week long summer season, it takes on a range of famous works with the goal of engaging diverse audiences, sparking conversation, and invigorating community life.

During the summer, GRSF runs half-day summer classes that give children between four and eight fun opportunities to explore performance and storytelling skills. More advanced courses are available for those in grades three to six, while middle and high school students can choose from programs that focus on filmmaking, acting, and design. Committed to nurturing new talent, the company also offers professional training through the Apprentice Actor Program, as well as a number of internships in areas such as lighting, sound, stage management, and administration. Assist GRSF in its many endeavors by joining its Friends of Will volunteer group.

For #4 we get Axis Theatre Company. Located in a historic performance space in Manhattan's West Village, Axis offers a highly immersive theatrical experience that engages audiences through many different performance styles. Creatively implementing cutting-edge technology and a variety of media, the company produces wide-ranging, innovative plays that encompass both original and published works. Among its signature productions are the episodic play "Hospital," and the Grimm brothers adaptation "Seven in One Blow, or The Brave Little Kid," which is an annual, interactive winter musical for children.

One of Axis's most valuable collaborations is with poet, performer, and fixture of downtown New York City's cultural scene Edgar Oliver, whose prolific body of work yields poignant, urban-centered emotional experiences. Critical to bringing these shows to life is artistic director Randy Sharp, who also directs such eclectic productions as "A Glance at New York," and "High Noon," an adaptation of the famous western film. Other unique offerings include imaginative retellings of classics such as "Frankenstein" and "Woyzeck," as well as newly created works based on true stories. Aid Axis's efforts by purchasing its music and audio recordings online.

Aid Axis's efforts by purchasing its music and audio recordings online.

Coming in at #5 is The Public Theatre. A vital contributor to cultural life in Lewiston, Maine, this organization seeks to entertain, spur discussion, and expand audiences' perceptions through the creation and performing of professional contemporary plays. Tackling a wide breadth of stimulating, provocative topics, it produces six to eight shows every season that play to more than 17,000 people. Spanning sundry styles, tones, and emotions, its productions include everything from "A Christmas Carol" to "Middletown" and "Murder for Two."

In addition to its regular season of plays, The Public Theatre hosts events such as Broadway raffles, a silent auction, a father-daughter Valentine Ball, and an interactive storytelling program at the Auburn Public Library. The organization also partners with film industry professionals to bring festivals to the Theatre, giving audiences the chance to see a variety of exciting, enriching independent and international movies. To gain experience and help advance the performing arts in Maine, consider volunteering with the group's backstage crew.

For #6 we arrive at New England Youth Theatre. Based in Vermont, this youth-centered nonprofit uses the creative, collaborative, and expressive power of the theatrical arts to nurture and empower young people's lives. With support and guidance provided by seasoned mentors, it offers myriad opportunities for aspiring artists to acquire hands-on skills in a variety of areas. N.E.Y.T.'s large and diverse theater community includes over 500 students and more than 50 professionals practicing in all areas of the discipline.

With support and guidance provided by seasoned mentors, it offers myriad opportunities for aspiring artists to acquire hands-on skills in a variety of areas.

Committed to fostering an inclusive environment, N.E.Y.T. offers programs that serve a wide spectrum of needs and interests. At the heart of these are its eight annual mainstage productions, which give participants the ability to explore and hone their craft through rehearsals that culminate in live performances. There are numerous classes and workshops for youth between six and nineteen, as well as a range of full and half-day summer sessions that focus on improv, playwriting, and more. Other offerings include design and production, pit orchestra, and mentorship programs. Send a gift to N.E.Y.T. to support future generations of performing artists.

Finally, landing at #7 is the Sacramento Theatre Company, which presents over 300 performances every year that span musical, classical, and contemporary productions. Its shows include famous works such as "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" and "Hamlet," cabaret performances of iconic musical theater, and youth-oriented productions of "Into the Woods" and "Oliver Twist." Aiming to integrate professional theatre with arts education, STC also offers an assortment of training and outreach programs led by veterans in the field.

Significant among STC's programming is the Young Professionals Conservatory, a ten-month training experience for eighth to twelfth grade students interested in theater careers. The Pre-Professional Ensemble Company offers a similar opportunity for younger kids, while the Ensemble Workshop Productions program enables students from seven to thirteen to participate in fully-produced shows. Further opportunities for theatrical development are available through camps, as well as through a school partnership initiative that involves classroom residencies and educational activities. Help keep STC thriving and accessible by making an in-kind donation of goods or services.