Wednesday, October 4, 2023

10 Ways To Hear/See Great Entertainment on a Budget in New York City & Beyond

Cannavale, Perez, Leguizamo - Playing On Air
By Jacquelin Carnegie 
Playing On Air - Radio Plays (Cost: Podcasts, Free)
This is one of the best-kept secrets in the entertainment world but it shouldn't be, so give a listen then tell everyone you know. The brainchild of veteran producer Claudia Catania, Playing On Air involves a perfect storm of talent--accomplished playwrights, plus top actors and directors--who get together to put on a play. These 10-minute plays are then available for streaming or as Podcasts. A couple of times a year, you can attend live benefit broadcasts. Playing On Air gives you the chance to experience champagne talent on a beer budget. 
Join the mailing list for updates on Podcast & live broadcasts. Some examples:
Crazy Eights written & directed by David Lindsay Abaire; actors: Bobby Cannavale, Kevin Hogan, John Leguizamo & Rosie Perez.
Poof! by Lynn Nottage; actors: Audra McDonald, Tonya Pinkins & Keith Randolph Smith; director Seret Scott.
Banshee written & directed by John Patrick Shanley; actors: Geraldine Hughes & Aidan Quinn.

Person Place Thing - Radio Interviews

actor/playwright Danai Gurira (Cost: Podcasts, Free/LiveShows: Free-$40)
The Emmy-winning host Randy Cohen, with his whimsical, David Sedaris-style humor, sets the tone for this thoroughly-enjoyable radio program. The guests are fascinating people from all walks of life--entertainment, science & technology, literature, and the arts--such as director Trevor Nunn, musician Rickie Lee Jones, Kickstarter cofounded Yancey Strickler, author Elizabeth Gilbert. They discuss a person, a place, and a thing they find meaningful and why they are significant to them. These entertaining interviews, with musical interludes, are recorded live two to three times a month at different venues around New York City. You can become an enthusiastic audience member by joining the mailing list for updates on live broadcasts & Podcasts.

Fireside Mystery Theatre (Cost: Podcasts, Free/Live Shows: $10-$20)
(photo: Bobby Singh/Front of House Photography)  
A piano player; sound effects; a talented group of actors doing different voices, accents, and characters at the drop of a hat. Yes, folks, it's good ol' fashioned "radio" dramas! The Fireside Mystery Theatre puts on a terrific show of short, original, mystery dramas that also happen to be a lot of fun. In addition to the intrigue, there are wonderful song interludes. Gus Rodriguez and Ali Silva are the masterminds behind this delightful mayhem that is available as Podcasts. And, post-COVID, they're itching to get back to doing live shows.

Since man first sat around a fire in a cave, humankind has been telling stories. Today, even with a barrage of other media, people are still drawn to other people telling stories, like moths to a flame.
The Moth - Storytelling
(Illustration: Anne Leuck) (Cost: around $10-$50)
For more than 20 years, The Moth has given just-plain-folks the chance to stand up in front of an audience and tell a story. Each StorySLAM has a theme; the tales must be true and told, off the cuff, in five minutes. Anyone can signup to speak and, as with any open-mic situation, the narratives run the gamut from brilliant to boring, but are always different and interesting. The StorySLAMs take place nationwide weekly and/or monthly (wherever you go, buy tickets as soon as they're posted & get there early). Story lovers can also attend The Moth Mainstage, a curated show of five storytellers, and listen to Podcasts and The Moth Radio Hour.

Symphony Space
2537 Broadway, at 95th St, NY; (Cost: Broadcasts/Podcasts, Free-$25/Live Shows: $20-$35)
(photo: Courtesy Symphony Space)
Selected Shorts The concept: about once a month, great actors from the stage, screen & TV read fascinating fiction in front of a live audience. Those readings become a public radio broadcast and Podcast. While some people just like to hear the author read from his/her own work, something magical happens when a trained professional--a fabulous performer--does the reading; it brings the story to life!
Editor's Note
Want to know more about Podcasts? Get Nicholas Quah's HotPod newsletter. 

Joe's Pub
Garland Jeffreys & The Boss

425 Lafayette St, NY; Tel: 212-967-7555;
(Cost: Tickets, $15-$50; plus a 1-food or 2-drink minimum)
This venue offers a wonderful eclectic mix of entertainment--every genre of music, plus dance, poetry, and comedy. Perhaps you've dismissed it, thinking it's too expensive. Sure, there are the headliners, but Joe's Pub also introduces you to artists you didn't know you should know about at a reasonable price! You might hear one of Bruce Springsteen's fave musicians or the actor/comedian Gad Elmaleh who's a big star in Europe.

Sounds of the City - Summertime Concerts
350 West 50th St, NY; 
Nilko Andreas Guarin
(When: Select Summer Saturdays; Cost: $25-$50 per concert; Season Pass: $150) 6:30pm Wine & Refreshments; 7:30pm Concert
On a beautiful, private terrace in midtown Manhattan you'll hear the strains of classical music or perhaps a Broadway tune belted out. These delightful musical soirées are curated by well-known actor, musician & vocal coach Paul Lincoln. Popular performers come back each year and new ones get added into the mix--all will delight. The ticket includes world-class entertainment, wine, light refreshments, and an unforgettable evening.

BrooklynCheck out the program calendar at these two cool Brooklyn venues: BRIC (647 Fulton St, Brooklyn, NY; - BRIC has a great lineup of affordable entertainmentRoulette (509 Atlantic Ave, on 3rd Ave, Brooklyn, NY; - A lovely venue with an eclectic mix of international music, dance, and mixed-media performances.

Saga, Wakka Wakka
Some of the most exciting work in theater is happening in puppetry, but the genre doesn't get the recognition it deserves. Meanwhile, it's terrific, affordable entertainment; the shows for children are brilliant and adult puppetry is mind-blowing. The artistry is the ultimate suspension-of-disbelief. When done well, it transports you to another place faster and better than any hallucinatory drug. Fortunately, in New York, there are several ways to see great puppetry:
Puppet Happenings (compiled by the Jim Henson Foundation) -
Weekly listings of outstanding puppetry in New York City & around the country.
HERE (145 6th Ave, NY) - The Dream Music Puppetry program showcases thought-provoking, adult puppetry. Puppeteer extraordinaire Basil Twist is the Artistic Director.
Puppet Kitchen - Check out the shows done by master puppetry designers led by the fab Eric Wright.
Wakka Wakka Productions - This OBIE award-winning and Drama Desk-nominated company presents visually-stunning, adult puppetry. 

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