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5 Theatres You Need to Know: Companies in Northwestern Queens

Date: Oct 02, 2018

Our series continues with a roundup of theatres in Long Island City, Astoria and Corona


Last month, we spotlighted Asian-American theatres in NYC. For our second installment of 5 Theatres You Need to Know, we're looking at companies based in northwestern Queens. If you usually think of the borough for baseball and dim sum, let us expand your perspective. As our Queens-based writer Jose Solís will tell you, it's also a vibrant performing arts destination.

Queens is routinely celebrated for its diversity, its eclectic cuisine, the Mets, and its movie studios (you'll find the TDF Costume Collection at Kaufman Astoria!). But theatregoers aren't always aware that it's also home to many companies presenting a wide range of work, including new plays, musical revivals, experimental pieces, family shows and cutting-edge dance. Here are five theatres in northwestern Queens you need to know:


1. Queens Theatre
14 United Nations Avenue South in Corona, Queens

Thanks to its location in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens Theatre boasts stunning surroundings, plus a sleek design of its own courtesy of architect Philip Johnson, who originally built the venue as part of the 1964 World's Fair. It's undergone a few renovations since then, and now features three performance spaces -- a 472-seat mainstage, a 99-seat studio and a small cabaret space -- that host theatre and dance, a family series, plus special events that reflect the borough's multicultural makeup. Individual tickets are quite affordable, and the membership program gets you even cheaper seats.

What's next? The 2018-2019 season kicks off with the new '50s family drama Leaving Brooklyn, which came out of the Queens Theatre's New American Voices Reading Series. Other highlights include a revival of Steel Magnolias, a new Hindus versus Muslims take on Shakespeare with Merchant on Venice, the mesmerizing Momix dance company and plenty of family shows.

TDF MEMBERS: At press time, discount tickets were available for Steel Magnolias and Leaving Brooklyn.



2. The Secret Theatre
44-02 23rd Street between 44th Road and 44th Avenue in Long Island City, Queens

U.K.-born actor, writer and director Richard Mazda founded this intimate theatre-in-the-round in 2007. It's known for its annual fests (the LIC One-Act Play Festival, UNFringed), weekend shows for families (which complement the theatre's kids' classes) and ambitious mainstage productions, like revivals of A Chorus Line and an immersive Cabaret, plus Shakespeare, sometimes starring Mazda himself.

What's next? Secret's kids' shows Princess Particular and Pirate Pete's Parrot continue their open runs, and UNFringed Festival favorite Eight Tales of Pedro returns for an encore. The theatre is also part of FringeBYOV, the new outer borough wing of the New York International Fringe Festival. In October and early November, you can catch four FringeBYOV shows at Secret: Crime of the Hour, If It Isn't You, Joe Charnitski: An Actual Patriot and We're Gonna Laugh.

TDF MEMBERS: At press time, discount tickets were available for Princess Particular and Pirate Pete's Parrot.


3. Ophelia Theatre Group
21-12 30th Road between 21st and 23rd Streets in Long Island City, Queens

Founded in California by playwright Sarah Bennett, Ophelia moved to Queens in 2010. While the troupe does present some original work, it mostly mounts innovative revivals, both classic (The Seagull, Hedda Gabler, Shakespeare) and contemporary (Almost, Maine, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, reasons to be pretty). Last season, Ophelia revitalized the Broadway flop Lysistrata Jones, a musical adaptation of Aristophanes' comedy that trades war for sports, which worked extremely well in the company's home at the Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens in Astoria.

What's next? The company just wrapped a series for families called Story Winks and hasn't yet announced the rest of its season. Sign up for Ophelia's email list to find out about future projects.


4. The Chocolate Factory Theater
5-49 49th Avenue between Vernon Boulevard and 5th Street in Long Island City, Queens

Since 2005, the Chocolate Factory has been a hub for cutting-edge, interdisciplinary performance. The work here defies easy categorization, though it leans toward dance. Last year, the Obie-winning organization purchased a 7,500-square-foot facility at 38-29 24th Street, which is in the process of being renovated. In the meantime, artistic director Brian Rogers continues to program offerings in the 49th Avenue space until the lease runs out in 2019.

What's next? The 2018-2019 season includes Neil Greenberg's meditation on the performance process To The Things Themselves!, Miguel Gutierrez's This Bridge Called My Ass featuring six Latinx performers and Niall Jones' trippy Untitled Fantasies in Low Fade. This is definitely the Queens venue to get your experimental groove on.



5. Astoria Performing Arts Center
Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens, 21-12 30th Rd at 21st Street in Astoria, Queens

Founded in 2001, APAC traditionally produces two mainstage productions every year: a new play in the fall and a musical in the spring. The company's done particularly well with its musical revivals, notably last season's stunning Follies and its 2017 resurrection of Raisin, the rarely seen tuner based on A Raisin in the Sun. APAC also holds readings of new works, and hosts theatre education programs for kids and seniors.

What's next? After being based out of Astoria's Good Shepherd United Methodist Church for a decade, APAC moved to the Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens in 2019. The upcoming season includes the New York premiere of the drama Queen and a revival of the Tony-nominated musical Caroline, or Change.


Jose Solís is a NY-based writer and editor who's been covering theatre and film professionally since 2003. He is a member of the Drama Desk. Follow him at @josesolismayen. Follow TDF at @TDFNYC.

Top image: Astoria Performing Arts Center's revival of Raisin. Photo Michael R. Dekker.

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