center stage

5 queer-friendly venues ignite New York City’s arts Renaissance

"Cats" at PAC NYC, one of the newest New York City performance venues.

The neon lights might be bright on Broadway, but Midtown Manhattan isn’t the only place for glitz and glam among New York City performance venues.

New arts venues and performance spaces have recently emerged beyond the theater district, adding more distinctive choices of live entertainment for culture-hungry locals and visitors.

GayCities hit the pavement to check out these newcomers and spotlight some of their queercentric offerings. 

Mastercard Midnight Theatre

Mastercard Midnight Theatre

A 150-seat, posh, art-deco space produces an array of live performances and events. 75 Manhattan West Plaza · New York, NY 10001
(917) 905-2782

Tucked away west of Penn Station, between Moynihan Train Station and Hudson Yards, Mastercard Mightnight Theatre’s 150-seat, posh, art-deco space produces an array of live performances and events, including burlesque, concerts, movie screenings, improv acts, and comedy. 

Sip carefully crafted cocktails and savor Pan-Asian small bites from their in-house restaurant, Hidden Leaf, a new creation from Brooklyn restaurant Josh Cohen. Still hungry?  Grab a table after one of these upcoming shows:

Judy Gold Hannukah Special —  Join lesbian comic Judy Gold and gay comedian/activist Modi Rosenfeld for a live Podcast recording of “Kill Me Now: The Hannukah Special.” December 12

SISMAS 23’: A Holiday Special — She may have played Ado Annie, the “girl who can’t say no” in the recent national tour of Oklahoma!, but  Sis Thee Doll is saying, “Yas!” to yuletide cheer with Sismas ’23: A  Holiday Spectacular. It promises “a gaggle of guests” and takes audiences on a not-to-missed journey that is sure to transform the season into pure joy. Can’t join in person? Virtual tickets are available. December 18

Perelman Performing Arts Center (PAC NYC)

Perelman Performing Arts Center (PAC NYC)

Tribeca gets in on the action with a multi-venue performance space. 251 Fulton St · New York, NY 10007
(212) 266-3000

Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg is the sugar daddy behind this massive Financial District complex. With three intimate, flexible spaces, it can host events ranging from opera, theater, spoken word, and dance.

Kerry Washington, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Ben Platt have already graced the PAC stages, and more big names are slated for 2024.

Musical theater fans are scratching impatiently for their new, reimagined, immersive production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber classic Cats. The new version slinks its way onto the stage in June, drawing inspiration from New York’s ballroom culture of the ‘70s and ‘80s.

Also in June:  PAC’s Criminal Queerness Festival, a theater event that “celebrates queer and trans artists from around the world who have the guts to risk it all.”

The Red Pavilion

The Red Pavilion

Shanghai-inspired speakeasy 1241 Flushing Ave · NY 11237


Shanghai Jazz, K-pop, a night of Asian love songs, and an all-Asian-American cast of pole dancers are among the eclectic events on the Red Pavillion stage. Bushwick’s pulp-noir venue evokes the style of a 1930s Shanghai speakeasy. Shien Lee and Zoey Gong, both of whom identify as queer, opened the venue earlier this year, which features vegan-friendly nibbles, bespoke cocktails

Red Pavilion features vegan-friendly nibbles, bespoke cocktails, and a lot of alluring stage performances. Consider some of these upcoming events:

Red Lantern District — A sex-positive show created by and starring queer people of color and celebrating queer and trans Asian Pacific Islanders. December 16

Eros Unbound — Hear sensual from favorite works of classic literature and participate in your own storytelling adventure. December 21

STRUT! by Deryck Todd, — Kiki at this recurring late-night party,  a national LGBTQ+ event attended by the likes of nightlife legend Amanda Lepore and Beyoncé choreographer Jonte’ Moaning. More dates coming soon.

Cocktail Magique Theatre

Cocktail Magique Theatre by Company XIV

Plenty of tantalizing tricks can be found at Company XIV’s intimate venue. 17 Wyckoff Ave · NY 11237
(718) 717-8342

Company XIV founder and artistic director Austin McCormick is the wizard behind this cozy Bushwick space, home to its eponymous show, Cocktail Magique. With its mix of heady drinks, audience participation (only for the willing), jaw-dropping magic, gender fluidity, comedy, and live music, it’s a must for date night or an evening with friends. The casual yet refined setting is conducive to mingling before and during the intermission, providing fertile ground to pick up new tricks. Through February 14, 2024.

Dance around the corner for Company XIV’s Nutcracker Rouge, a spin on the classic ballet that has become a holiday tradition for the naughty contingency. Through January 28, 2024.

Coming soon … The Second City

The Second City
The Second City’s “Don’t Quit Your Daydream .” Photo by Timothy M. Schmidt.

Legendary performers like Joan Rivers, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Alexandra Billings got their start at Chicago’s famous comedy theater, which dates back to 1959.

Detroit, Toronto, and Hollywood companies would follow, each producing world-famous talent. Soon, The Second City‘s sketchy shenanigans will have a home in Williamsburg and one of the newest New York City performance venues.

The Second City also boasts an impressive roster of LGBTQ+ alumni, including Tien Train, E.R. Fightmaster, Shantira Jackson, and John Hartman.

Although specific programming is yet to be announced for the NYC outpost, it’s sure to have some queer sensibility with artistic director Alan Kliffer and music director Jeff Bouthiette at the helm. The opening is scheduled for January 2024. 

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