I was a fairly typical 6th grader, I think. I attended a public middle school. I was overly excited about decorating my luxurious 2-foot-tall locker. I tried to emulate Hermione Granger in every way possible- mostly by wearing clothes that oddly resembled a uniform despite my school’s free dress code. I spent a lot of joyous lunches preparing to perform the age-appropriate role of Mother Abbess in The Sound of Music at my local community theater. I exclusively downloaded Golden Age musical theater cast albums on my teal iPod nano, which I devastatingly lost at arts camp…
Ok, it would probably be a stretch to consider my younger self “typical” in many ways, but by musical theater nerd standards, I was right in line. Similar to many self-identified musical theater kids, I was only in the 6th grade when I fully fell in love with musical theater and knew I would make sure it would always be a part of my life. I also decided in the 6th grade that I would move to New York City one day.
Fast forward 10 years, I am a rising senior in college, and that decision remains just as prescient as ever, partially because I was able to give New York City a test run this past summer. And, lucky for me, the city was everything I wished it would be and more. I jumped in to my summer in the city with a willingness to discover, but was also fortunate to have a network of New York friends who gave me crucial insight into how to navigate the big city for the first time. From one theater kid who always dreamed of taking New York by storm to another, here are 10 tips and tricks I picked up along the way.
1- Cheap theater tickets
Please don’t ever pay full price for theater tickets in New York. There are many ways to receive amazingly discounted tickets. You can go to one of the TKTS booths (the one by Lincoln Center is the nicest and is usually the least crowded) and purchase half-priced tickets on the day of a performance. Be sure to go to the booth right when it opens, as they sell the best seats first! You can also rush tickets to shows and entering lotteries daily. Some lotteries are easier to win than others, so enter for many different shows! BroadwayForBrokePeople.com is an excellent site that has the rush and lottery information listed for every Broadway show.
2- The Subway
Get to know the Subway immediately. Spend a day hopping on lines and learn the differences between express trains and regular trains. Use the app Citymapper to plot your routes. When people start asking you for platform in directions, you’ll know you’ve made it.
A great way of meeting people and gaining exposure is by attending and performing in cabarets. Some excellent spaces to check out include The West End Lounge, The Duplex, Broadway Sessions, Green Room 42, and 54 Below.
4- So you have a sweet tooth after a show?
I became severely loyal to Schmackary’s Cookies, DO Cookie Dough Confections, 16 Handles, and Milk Bar (get the birthday truffles!). If you are looking for something a bit more substantial, 2 Bros Pizza has consistently excellent $1 slices.
5- For my friends who are over 21…
Marie’s Crisis Cafe is the musical theater bar of your dreams. Located right by Stonewall (which you should also enjoy and revere), Marie’s Crisis is quintessential, cozy, and hosts a live pianist with regular sing-alongs. Go there.
6- Ways to enjoy the outdoors
Biking through central park with my roommate might have been one of the simplest yet most exhilarating activities of the summer. Download the City Bike app for this, their offerings are much cheaper than bikes advertised to tourists. Broadway in Bryant Park features free performances from Broadway companies every Thursday afternoon during July and August. The rain storms can be exhilarating if you accept the inevitability of getting completely soaked. You can take the ferry to Staten Island for free. If someone farts loudly behind you in Washington Square Park, that’s probably the friendly neighborhood fart machine guy. I was only able to gleefully expose him once. Do better than me.
7- Training programs
If you are interested in continuing your training in New York, there are many ways to do so! I participated in the American Theatre Wing’s SpringboardNYC program, and it was one of my most informative and inspiring theatrical experiences. Through masterclasses and information sessions with countless theatrical professionals, my fellow students and I gained valuable insight into the business of theater and New York’s current theatrical landscape while making incredible connections with Tony-winning artists and leaders. Oh yeah, and we also attended the Tony’s. No biggie. In addition to SpringboardNYC, I have heard the following programs and organizations are also superb:
For Improv- The PIT, Magnet Theater, Second City
For Devising- Movement Theater Studio, Tectonic Theater Project
For Acting- Primary Stages, Barrow Group, HB Studio, St. Ann’s Warehouse
For Dance- Steps on Broadway, Broadway Dance Center
8- Practice Spaces
Finding space to rehearse in New York can be extremely difficult. Although this likely isn’t what you want to hear, don’t be afraid of practicing in your apartment. Nothing should stop you from continuing to grow and practice what you love, and no one around you cares what you sound like anyway. But remember it is important to abide by your building’s quiet hours and to be courteous of your neighbors at night/in the morning. If you’re really in a pinch and need some space, Ripley Grier rents out studios in 15 minute time chunks, and that can be a great tool right before an audition. If you’re on your way to an audition, you can even gently warm up while walking on the street. Again, no one cares.
9- You don’t need a sweater in the summer. Ever.
I grew up in a Mediterranean climate. It was never too cold, it was never too hot. I would walk around with layers at the ready, and always expect to need a jacket after sunset. So I brought about 3 jackets and 3 sweaters with me to New York, thinking I had expertly pared down my nighttime wardrobe… I never touched any of them. You will exclusively live in sleeveless shirts and sandals.
10- Take pride in being a local
If you aren’t genuinely annoyed by tourists who don’t speed walk everywhere, you’re doing something wrong 😉