Arts and Entertainment: Five Local Theater Companies You Should Have on Your Radar

With theatrical roots originating in the early 1800s, Philadelphia has flourished into a dynamic hub of live theater production. There are a multitude of theaters around the city offering fantastic performances well beyond the famed Walnut Street Theatre.

From the hilarious antics of  The 1812 Game Show Spectacular! to Theatre Exile’s hard-hitting drama Lost Girls, the city offers a diverse catalogue of venues showcasing the skills of talented local artists and actors.

Here are five venues in Philly that enrich the city’s arts community with compelling narratives from masterful playwrights.

Plays and Players Theatre

Created in 1912, Plays and Players Theatre (1714 Delancey St.) is one of the oldest, active theaters in America.

The theatre has transformed over the years, undergoing several name changes and adding murals by renowned American Artist Edith Emerson in 1932, but its mission to provide diverse and engaging plays to audiences remains the same.

Its upcoming production, R.U.R. & The Insect Play, explores humanity within two separate and fantastical settings – a dystopia of self-aware robotic overlords and a traveller’s drunken dream-like world of surprisingly human insects.

Upcoming Shows:

February 16th to 26th: R.U.R. & The Insect Play

March 14th to 25th: Jimmy Gorski is Dead

Arden Theatre Company

Founded in 1988, the Arden Theatre Company (40 N. 2nd St.) dedicated itself to weaving enriching storytelling into schools and the community.

In addition to delivering some of the highest quality of shows in the region, the organization is passionate about opening the world of live performance plays to kids. A few doors down the block stands the Arden Drama School, which provides classes and camps for kids as young as two years old to kids in their last year of high school.

The company is currently performing Pultizer Prize-winning playwright Annie Baker’s John, which follows a young couple’s spiritual journey during their stay in Gettysburg, PA.

Upcoming shows:

March 2nd to April 9th: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

April 5th to May 28th: The Light Princess (Arden’s Children Theatre)

Forrest Theatre

For Broadway fanatics, the Forrest Theatre (1114 Walnut St.) should become your second home for the 2017 season. While musicals seem to be the hot ticket this year, the theater has hosted countless plays, dramas, and comedies since its opening ceremony in May of 1928.

The Forrest Theatre’s next musical, Hedwig and The Angry Inch, is an innovative production by John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask that has been described as a dynamic combination of both heartbreaking and hysterical.

Upcoming Shows:

April 18th to April 23rd: Hedwig and The Angry Inch

June 13th to June 18th: Fun Home

1812 Productions

Tucked into a residential neighborhood in South Philadelphia, the 1812 Productions HQ (2329 S. 3rd St.) is home to the comedic troupe behind some of Philly’s most hilarious productions.

Founded in 1997 by long-time friends Jennifer Childs and Peter Pryor, the company boasts more than fifteen original works that employ 1812’s unique comedic style.

The 1812 Game Show Spectacularis the next production in the company’s wheelhouse. The mash-up of Match Game, Pyramid and The Price is Right! features an all-star cast of 1812 Productions alumni in a show that is sure to be anything but ordinary. Note that 1812 Productions utilizes Plays and Players Theatre (1714 Delancey Street) previously mentioned above.

Upcoming Shows:

February 20th and February 21st: The 1812 Game Show Spectacular! (Two-night event!)

April 27th to May 21st: Happy Birthday

Theatre Exile

Theatre Exile (1340 S. 13th St.), another one of South Philly’s hidden gems, will utilize some of the areas most talented actors for the 2017 season to perform engrossing dramas that explore the fascinating and twisted human psyche. The nonprofit theatre company’s upcoming show Lost Girls explores the world of a blue-collar family’s struggle against an unforgiving world amidst and their attempt to find their missing teenage daughter.

Upcoming Shows:

February 16th to March 12th: Lost Girls

May 4th to May 28th: Buzzer

– Text and images by Daniel Lopez.



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