Children's Theater in New York City
A patron wrote in to ASK NYPL, the virtual reference service of The New York Public Library, to find out about the state of children's theater in New York City. More specifically, the patron wanted to know the total number of children age 6-11 in each of the five boroughs of the City; the various theaters in the City that feature children's fare; and the identity of the theater companies that put on performances of interest to children in New York City.
There are a great number of children age 6-11 in New York City. The best way to find a very rough approximation of how many children there are age 6-11 in New York City would be to use the American Fact Finder Search page of the U.S. Census Bureau that relies on the American Community Survey ("ACS"). This is the ongoing statistical survey administered by the Census Bureau. If you wish to learn more about how to find the rich data available in the ACS, a very easy to use introduction is: The Who, What, and Where of America: Understanding the American Community Survey (2012) held by the Science, Industry and Business Library.
The ACS collects data, broken down by age group, in each county in each state in the United States. Since each borough in New York City is also a county in New York State, one can use the tools found on this page to estimate the number of children, for example age 6-11 in Manhattan, by adding the tabulated data for "New York County" for children age: 6-8 years and 9-11 years of age. According to the ACS, there were a total of 70,377 children age 6-11 in Manhattan. You can then add the number of children in these two age groups for each one of the other boroughs (counties) in New York City and find out that the ACS estimates there were approximately: 558,312 children age 6-11 in the five boroughs of New York City in 2011 (the last year currently available).
There are quite a number theaters in New York City of widely varying size that offer a rich variety of fare. The best resource for information on the theater in New York City is the Billy Rose Theatre Division of the Library of the Performing Arts of The New York Public Library. "Broadway" Theaters are commercial venues defined as seating "over 499 people" and there are currently 40 of these in operation. In recent years, Broadway productions have been faring well as reported by the Broadway League and these statistics are analyzed in the "Broadway Box Office" column of Daily Variety and in Theatrical Index that are available in The Theatre Division and Daily Variety is accessible online in MasterFile Premiere on the Articles and Databases page at all NYPL locations and from home. There are also a number of for-profit "Off-Broadway" theaters that are defined as seating "100-499 people" according to the League of Off-Broadway Theaters and Producers (and also a number of non-profit Off-Broadway theater companies). And there are an often difficult to quantify number of "Off-Off Broadway" theaters that seat 99 people or less. These are generally financed by government, arts and educational grants and donations according to the Theater Communications Group.
Although there are demonstrably large numbers of children in New York City as well as a vibrant for-profit and non-profit theatrical presence in New York City, there is one full time theater in the Broadway area devoted to children's theater programming: The New Victory Theater that was funded in part by New York City and State as part of the "re-development" of Times Square that started in the 1980s. The New Victory's programming received a special "Drama Desk" Award in 2012 for: "nurturing a love of theater in young people." The theater's programming is complemented by an award-winning educational program with New York City schools.
At this time there are certain Broadway productions that may appeal to children and also certain Off-Broadway productions. However, there are a number of non-profit theatrical companies in New York City that are devoted to children's theatrical programming. And the quality of the work of certain of these companies stands out. These companies usually do not have dedicated or permanent theatrical houses to put on their children's performances.
A few of the companies devoted to children's theater include:
- Theaterworksusa (professional theater for children that stimulates reading and discussion of social and historical issues)
- Making Books Sing (promoting children's literacy and social development through productions)
- The Paper Bag Players (presenting musical theater for children age 3 to 8)
- The Children's Theatre Company (where children ages 5-19 appear in shows that highlight ethical issues); itheatrics (workshops and presentations for children to work on Broadway musicals)
- Black Spectrum Theater (that features programming and classes for African-American children and teens)
- Teatro SEA (theatrical productions for Latino children)
- The Galli Theater (interactive fairy tales in English, French and German and also teen fare)
- The Pied Piper Theater Children's Theater (where young people explore theatrical and musical skills)
- TADA! Youth Theater (musical theater performed by children for family audiences)
- The Shadow Box Theater (musical puppet plays for young children)
- Vital Theater Company (family programming and educational programs)
And, boding well for the future, The New York Children's Theater Festival supports upcoming playwrights, artists and theater professionals who are passionate about creating theatrical experiences for children.