Astoria and Long Island City continue to get recognized for their strong arts communities. Along with the more visible music and art scenes, Western Queens is the home to an active theater community, which includes the Astoria Performing Arts Center, The Secret Theater, and the Chocolate Factory. Both classic plays and new works are embraced by these companies, benefitting the rich culture of Queens, New York.
The Astoria Performing Arts Center (APAC) was founded in 2001 with the mission to bring high-quality live theater to Astoria and Long Island City. It's an award-winning organization that has received a number of nominations and won several New York Innovative Theatre Awards, as well as an Off-Off Broadway Theatre Review Award for Outstanding Production of a Musical. Recognition from the press has consistently come its way, from publications such as The New York Times, Time Out New York, and American Theatre magazine.
The Astoria Performing Arts Center is dedicated to bringing theater to the attention of both young people and seniors in the neighborhood, particularly through the Summer Stars and Senior Stars programs. Summer Stars is a free musical theater performance program for kids 8-13; APAC also runs the Astoria Playmaking Program, an after school playwriting program for middle school students. The Senior Stars program gives senior 60 years and older a chance to participate in live theater performance.
APAC is also involved in bringing attention to emerging playwrights through its series The 15/20s: Staged Readings of New Works. The theater perform plays from the standard repertoire as well. As of this writing, APAC performs at Good Shepherd United Methodist Church in Astoria.
- Astoria Performing Arts Center, Good Shepherd United Methodist Church, 30-44 Crescent Street, Astoria, NY, 718-706-5750
The Queens Players perform at The Secret Theater, an Off-Off Broadway theater established in 2005 by artistic director Richard Mazda. The Secret Theater itself is actually three spaces, and these spaces are nicknamed "Big Secret," "Poco," and "Raw." The Secret Theater lives in the Long Island City Art Center in LIC.
According to The Queens Players' website, "The formation of the company... is also in part a reaction to the huge army of unsuccessful actors who form training companies or set themselves up as self proclaimed and expensive acting coach." It's a non-union company that presents both new and classic works.
In 2010, The Secret Theater hosted the first Astoria/LIC International Film Festival. The theater also makes itself available for events, receptions, workshops, and classes.
- The Secret Theatre, 4402 23rd Street, Long Island City, NY, 718-781-1169
The Chocolate Factory, located in Long Island City, is focused on bringing to light new works for theater, as well as dance, music, multimedia, and the visual arts. Its 5,000 square feet, Obie Award winning space, is a lab for all sorts of creative pursuits, and produces some of the most creative work in Long Island City.
The origins of the Chocolate Factory were with theater et al (1999-2004), who went looking for that which is of practical value to an artist - affordable space, enough time for rehearsal (including tech rehearsals), and the right kind and amount of equipment to run a show. The founding artists established access to this at the Chocolate Factory, and the participants in its Visiting Artists Program benefit greatly from it. At this writing, Sheila Lewandowski is the Executive Director, and is a great force behind the 20-30 shows produced each year.
Additionally, the Chocolate Factory never asks for rent from artists using their space, and doesn't charge them for anything else either; the lifting of these conventional limitations - the elimination of this financial worry - allows for great freedom for the artists. This is all compatible with its mission to support emerging art and artists.
Attending a theater production at the Chocolate Factory may cause you to re-examine your relationship to theater and art in general, which is what the creative process does best. Creative experimentation runs deep at the the Chocolate Factory.
- The Chocolate Factory Theater, 5-49 49th Avenue, Long Island City, NY, 718-482-7069
So remember, one doesn't need to head into Manhattan for the theater - great works are created right here in Astoria and Long Island City.