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Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Philadelphia: Theater

by Christopher Munden, Philadelphia Theater blogger

Philadelphia theater is rich in its diversity and output, with over 100 companies presenting thousands of performances every year. The city boasts a long-standing tradition of theatrical production—Center City’s Walnut Street Theatre is the nation’s oldest continuously operating playhouse, having recently celebrated its 200th anniversary.

The Walnut is joined by a number of other major resident theaters in putting on shows of a quality in scope to match almost any in the county. Old City’s Arden Theatre Company is lodestar of this group, presenting consistently high-quality seasons of new and classic works. Along Broad Street, known as the city’s Avenue of the Arts, the Philadelphia Theatre Company’s stylish Suzanne Roberts Theatre hosts an array of major theater events, including many world and national premiers by contemporary American playwrights.

A generous offering of smaller spaces and non-resident companies add flavor to the Philly theater scene, each filling their own unique niche. InterAct Theatre, resident at the multi-stage Adrienne Theatre (a good place to look for top small local companies), produces mostly new work of a politically conscious hue. The city’s only all-comedy company, 1812 Productions is a guaranteed humor fest. The Lantern Theatre, which stages in the rear space of a Center City church, is the place for quality classics—their Shakespeare shows are regularly the best in town.

Cutting-edge theater in Philadelphia reaches a peak every September, when the annual Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe presents a smorgasbord of commissioned and independent productions. At the other end of the spectrum, Broadway comes to Philadelphia under the auspices of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts’ Broadway Series, which presents touring shows at the Merriam Theater, Forrest Theatre, and elsewhere.

Philadelphia Theater: Theater Around Philadelphia

Below are our Philadelphia Theater recommendations, with information on location, admission, transportation/parking, theater history and other points of interest in Philadelphia Art.
 

1812 Productions

1812 Productions

Launched initially out of the 1812 Pine Street apartment of Peter Pryer and Jennifer Childs, two University of the Arts graduates, 1812 Productions is currently hailed as “Philadelphia’s All-Comedy theatre company.” Since their debut in 1998, the company has produced over 30 shows, including 14 world premieres (with an emphasis on works by local artists).

Each four-play season highlights a healthy dose of political satire and pop culture spoof, while its …more…

Act II Playhouse

Act II Playhouse

“World-class theatre, intimate venue” is the motto of Act II Playhouse, founded in 1998. Four mainstage and two special-event productions are staged each season in the company’s 130-seat theater; recent productions have included A.R Gurney’s Sylvia, Yasmina Reza’s Art, Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and the musicals The Story of My Life and John and Jen. Act II develops new plays through readings, forging and maintaining relationships with nationally recognized playwrights, and …more…

Arden Theatre Company

Arden Theatre Company

Arden Theatre Company loves to tell a good story and its stories come from many sources. Fairy tales, Sondheim musicals, Irish plays, stage adaptations of everything from Arabian Nights to Crime and Punishment, and August Wilson dramas are the sorts of things you can expect to see on the Arden’s stages. The company has produced numerous world premieres and develops new work with its Independence Foundation New Play Showcase program.

Founded in 1988, …more…

Brat Productions

Brat Productions

This company seeks to “take you out of your comfort zone,” to “cause a stir,” and to “create a world in which theater speaks to everyone — even people who don’t like theater (at least, not yet).” Brat Productions was founded in 1996 when theatre artist Madi Distefano directed A Midsummer Night’s Dream in an ivy-covered Philadelphia courtyard; the production was notable for the unique venue and the $5 ticket …more…

Bristol Riverside Theatre

Bristol Riverside Theatre

A professional company located on the scenic Delaware River in Bucks County, Bristol Riverside Theatre produces shows in a renovated movie house that combines the benefits of a large stage with the intimacy of a 300-seat theatre. Since 1986, BRT has maintained a commitment to finding and developing new works, such as country music star Larry Gatlin’s musicals Alive and Well (And Livin’ in the Land of Dreams) and Texas …more…

EgoPo Classic Theater

EgoPo Classic Theater

EgoPo was founded (in 1991) and originally operated in New Orleans, but relocated to Philadelphia following Hurricane Katrina. This is a true repertory company, with a core group of actors from which each show is cast – something of a rarity in the modern American theater. Actors train weekly in the company’s physical and vocal techniques, as well as learning and honing specialized skills that may be required for specific …more…

Forrest Theatre

Forrest Theatre

Built in 1927 by the Shubert Organization, the Forrest Theatre has seen thousands of performances through the decades, including musicals, comedies, dramas, Yiddish theatre, dance programs, Gilbert & Sullivan operettas, and concerts by the Philadelphia Orchestra. Still owned and operated by the Shubert Organization, the Forrest has, since 2007-08, joined with the Kimmel Center to offer a full season of first-class Broadway touring shows each year. The typically eclectic 2010-2011 …more…

InterAct Theatre Company

InterAct Theatre Company

Now in its 22nd season, the InterAct continues its mission of providing Philadelphia with contemporary, culturally relevant new works. Favoring edgy, politically conscious fare from a roster of highly regarded emerging playwrights, InterAct’s daring theatricality has landed it over 16 Barrymore Awards. Lauded for their recently formed 20/20 New Play Commission Program, pledging 20 play commissions over the course of just six upcoming seasons, InterAct will celebrate its first New York …more…

Lantern Theater Company

Lantern Theater Company

Pledging an eclectic mixture of classic and contemporary, the Lantern Theatre has for over sixteen years been a Philadelphia beacon for area premieres by intellectual playwrights like David Hare and Harold Pinter, alongside bold re-imaginings of classic works by Shakespeare, Moliere and Anton Chekov. Winner of the 2009 Barrymore Award for “Committed Excellence in Theatre Education and Community Service,” the company is as well regarded for its In Conversation talk back …more…

Media Theatre

Media Theatre for the Performing Arts

Media Theatre is a non-profit organization that has been operating as the only professional theatre company in Delaware County since 2000. Located in downtown Media, the theatre itself was originally constructed in 1927 as a vaudeville house that also featured “talkies.” In 1993, Walter Strine, Sr. purchased the property and undertook a major renovation that restored the theatre to its original aesthetic glory. Throughout the ’90s, the theatre was run …more…

Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival

Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival (Center Valley, PA)

(June 1 – August 5, 2012) Founded in 1992, the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival is a professional theatre company in residence at DeSales University. Each summer, PSF produces a season of Shakespeare and other classics, musical theatre, and children’s shows. Located about an hour north of Philadelphia and less than two hours from Manhattan, the festival is a summer home to approximately 150 artists from around the U.S., including winners and nominees of the Tony, Obie, Emmy, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, Jefferson, and Barrymore awards. ...more...

People’s Light and Theatre Company

People’s Light and Theatre Company

The People’s Light and Theatre Company is a professional company with a distinctly community feel. The productions are performed in two black-box spaces, and guest artists are housed and fed in a renovated 18th-century farmhouse that includes the on-site restaurant Places!

People’s Light reaches out to the community through countless educational initiatives, among them adult and youth classes, school residencies and tours, summer programs, community workshops, and the New Voices Ensemble …more…

Philadelphia Theatre Company

Philadelphia Theatre Company

When the Philadelphia Theatre Company isn’t presenting world premieres by distinguished playwrights and artists such as Terrence McNally, David Ives, and Bill Irwin, it’s producing the Philly premieres of plays and musicals by equally distinguished writers such as Wendy Wasserstein and William Finn, as well as work by emerging talents such as Lynn Nottage and Gina Gionfriddo. PTC’s allegiance is to the American playwright and it helps to give them …more…

Pig Iron Theatre Company

Pig Iron Theatre Company

Pig Iron Theatre Company is a multidisciplinary ensemble based in Philadelphia. Since its foundation in 1995, the company has created and presented more than 25 original works. Using improvisation and company discussion, and allowing a development period of more than a year for each project, Pig Iron has created shows ranging from a rock-n-roll cabaret piece emceed by a character representing James Joyce’s institutionalized daughter (The Lucia Joyce Cabaret) to …more…

Prince Music Theater

Prince Music Theater

The Prince Music Theater is a cultural district unto itself. Its musicals include faithful revivals of classics and daring new works by brilliant up-and-comers. The Prince also hosts notable film events, such as the Philadelphia International Film Festival and Philly’s own Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. Many of the country’s finest singers and entertainers come to serenade audiences at Morgan’s Cabaret. There’s even a kind of amateur hour called Open …more…

Society Hill Playhouse2

Society Hill Playhouse

For over 50 years, Society Hill has prided itself on good ol’ fashioned theatrical entertainment. Eschewing the highbrow tastes of most of Philly’s other regional companies, Society Hill has a tradition of producing long running plays and musicals (the ever popular Nunsense ran for over a decade) at the historic David Garrick Hall, while its “Red Room” cabaret space offers unique solo turns and works in development. Now playing indefinitely: Respect! A …more…

The Media Theatre

The Media Theatre for the Performing Arts

The Media Theatre for the Performing Arts Information

Public Transportation: Good (a 2-minute walk from SEPTA Light Rail line 101 at the Edgemont Street Station and from buses 110 and 118 at Baltimore Avenue/Monroe Street)
Handicapped Accessibility: Good
Performances/Programs: 11 shows per season with multiple performances of each, including 3 Black Box Series shows, 4 Broadway Series shows, and 4 Children’s Series shows
Ticket Prices: Adult $49–$54 (Seniors $44–$47; Children $27–$37; Students $25)
Group Discounts: …more…

Walnut Street Theatre

Walnut Street Theatre

Celebrating its 200th birthday in 2009, the Walnut Street is the oldest theatre in the United States. With its extraordinary history and theatrical pedigree (and an illustrious alumni featuring Edwin Booth to Katharine Hepburn to Marlon Brando) Walnut Street has endured war, depression and financial endangerment to remain one of Philadelphia’s most resilient and gallant theatre companies.

Now operating three full yearly seasons, The Walnut Street’s mainstage offers elaborate productions of …more…

Wilma Theatre

Wilma Theater

The Wilma Theater is thoroughly unpredictable. Headed by the dynamic duo Blanka and Jiri Zizka, the Wilma isn’t interested in doing things the easy way: for example, producing the latest four-person kitchen-sink drama that played to acclaim in New York.

The theater’s mission is to present theater as an art form, but that doesn’t mean it’s all pretentious and academic. The same season that sports a pair of Caryl Churchill plays …more…