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Showstopping Theater Cities around The US

By John Garry, Lonely Planet Writer
November 22, 2019
Fords Theatre

New York City is the theater capital of America, and Broadway is its shining star, but that doesn't mean the Great White Way has a monopoly over the medium. While the bright lights of the Big Apple may overshadow smaller theater scenes around the United States, the productions in these ten underrated towns are worth way more than rotten tomatoes.

1. Minneapolis

Fed up with the lights of Broadway, Sir Tyrone Guthrie moved to Minneapolis to begin his own repertory company in 1963. The Guthrie Theater went on to find success as a purveyor of classic and contemporary works and is arguably the most lauded theater venue in the Twin Cities. That's a mighty feat, considering Minneapolis and neighboring St. Paul are home to nearly 200 theaters and a healthy helping of successful organizations, including Brave New Workshop Theatre, Children's Theater Company, and touring venues like the Ordway and Orpheum.

2. Chicago

Theater in Chicago is like deep-dish pizza: excellent and easy to find. The scene exploded in the mid 20th century when curtains went up on groups like Second City and Steppenwolf Theatre. Though these scrappy startups are now iconic institutions, the sentiments of their early days are still alive in Chicago's storefront theaters. Run by rag-tag post-grads looking to make their mark, these companies provide opportunities to see intimate productions in non-traditional settings.

Check out The Loop's historic Broadway-style houses for big-budget musicals. Internationally acclaimed companies like the Goodman and Lookingglass are exemplary for their groundbreaking work. With over 200 operating theater companies, even the suburbs serve up award-winning theatrical experiences.

3. Washington, DC

Unlike its politicians, DC's theater companies know how to reach across the aisle and appeal to all audiences. The sprawling Kennedy Center is the best place to catch touring shows and concerts; Wooly Mammoth is the city's go-to for boundary-breaking theatrical experimentation; Signature Theater hosts ambitious productions of musicals; Shakespeare Theatre Company is one of the country's foremost interpreters of the Bard. Studio Theatre and Arena Stage are also noteworthy, as is Ford's Theatre, although President Lincoln had a famously terrible time there in 1865.

4. Philadelphia

Philly is heaven for history buffs. There’s the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and – drum roll please – the oldest continually operating playhouse in America. The Walnut Street Theatre, a National Historic Landmark, has been entertaining audiences for over 200 years. Locals love the out-of-the-box storytelling done by dozens of smaller organizations like the Arden, InterAct, and The Philadelphia Fringe Festival, which hosts 1,000 performances for three weeks every September. For blockbuster Broadway shows, head to the glass-domed Kimmel Center and Renaissance-style Academy of Music.

5. San Diego

If La Jolla Playhouse isn't using "San Diego tested, New York approved" as their motto, they're missing a good opportunity. Of the 101 original plays and musicals they've premiered, 32 found success on Broadway stages. They aren't the only ones, either. The Old Globe, modeled after Shakespeare's theater in London, has given birth to over 20 Broadway shows throughout its illustrious career. Between both theaters and nearly 150 other active performance spaces around town, San Diego is a veritable Broadway by the beach.

6. Louisville

This Kentucky town turns into a hotbed of artistic activity when the Actors Theatre of Louisville hosts its annual six-week-long Humana Festival. It's like Sundance for theater geeks — people from around the world come to celebrate new productions written by an impressive roster of playwrights. The prestigious festival has premiered a zillion critically-acclaimed titles, including Becky Shaw, Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Dinner With Friends.

7. Seattle

It may be perennially overcast in this Pacific Northwest town, but Seattle's theater scene still manages to sparkle. Both A Contemporary Theater and Seattle Rep present homegrown greatness with their evocative works featuring the city's pool of talented professionals. The 5th Avenue Theatre focuses on developing new musicals and is a frequent incubator for Broadway shows. The Paramount, Moore, and Neptune Theaters — all part of Seattle Theater Group — collectively present around 700 live events annually.

8. Boston

Boston is an educational playground for young voices in the American theater. Prominent regional houses, including Huntington Theatre Company and American Repertory Theater, are affiliated with local universities like Boston University, Harvard and Emerson College. The surrounding areas are home to prolific art scenes as well, including North Shore Music Theatre (a half-hour away) and the Williamstown Theatre Festival, which brings Broadway-caliber productions to the Berkshires.

9. Denver

For a city obsessed with outdoor activities, you may be surprised that any Mile High inhabitant would be willing to spend an evening inside a stuffy theater. But the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, the nation's largest non-profit theater organization, is too spectacular to resist. The network of venues in this architecturally dynamic downtown complex host national tour premiers and pre-Broadway engagements, produce their own world-class performances, and help groom the country's up-and-coming talents at the annual Colorado New Play Summit.

10. Dallas/Fort Worth

Everything's bigger in Texas, including this city's prodigious theater landscape. The gleaming AT&T Performing Arts Center hosts glitzy touring productions. Smaller companies like the Uptown Players and Theater Three produce quirky, low-budget works. Fort Worth, a thirty-minute drive away, has a robust theater community of its own, including Casa Mañana and Bass Hall. The big-wig of the Big D? Dallas Theater Center. This nationally-recognized company has brought brand new productions and reimagined classics to Dallas for over 50 years.

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Inspiration

8 Groundbreaking Exhibits to Catch at US Museums This Winter

Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet, and Dali will never cease to lure art-lovers to the grand exhibit halls of museums, but when it comes to special exhibits at American cultural institutions this winter, fashion, politics and activism, design, and science get top billing. Here are a few limited-run exhibits to catch that are sure to intrigue and inspire. Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art - Kansas City, Missouri Alleles Design Studio, a Canadian company, makes prosthetic leg covers in a huge range of designs and styles, giving amputees a way to express his or her own personality. Their works are part of the vast array of objects, equipment, and machines in “Access and Ability.” Originally designed by the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, the exhibit spotlights forward-thinking designs from the past decade that have helped with the challenges of daily life that affect people with varying levels of disabilities. You’ll find pieces like an easy on/easy off shoe inspired by a child with cerebral palsy, hearing aids that double as blingy earrings, and a robotic therapy dog. Some items in the show are interactive, like eyeglasses that compensate for color blindness. Runs through February 9, 2020. Philadelphia Museum of Art - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania The most extreme haute couture collections that dominate the runway at Fashion Week events from Paris to New York pale in comparison to the works on display at “Off the Wall: American Art to Wear.” The Philadelphia Museum of Art’s playful fashion exhibit features 130 one-of-a-kind creations by 60 mixed-media artists who masterfully demonstrate how the body can be a canvas. Created between 1967 and 1997, the pieces reflect the energy and mood of their time, from hippie-fueled activism to futuristic innovation. Patterns influenced by international cultures, weaving techniques inspired by Latin American artisans, and appropriation of medieval and Renaissance fashions all play a critical role in the audacious pieces on display. Runs through May 17, 2020. Museum of Contemporary Art - Chicago, Illinois With all the headlines about immigration over the past few years, it’s important to consider the dense history of displacement. “Routes and Territories” features the works of three Latin American artists who explore how leaving one’s homeland affected societies and communities since the start of the colonization of the Americas through to today. Vast mural-like paintings, old manuscripts, wire sculptures and video track the profound social, personal and political impact of migration. Runs through April 19, 2020. Library of Congress - Washington, DC After seven decades of picketing and organizing and rallying, women finally earned the right to vote in August 1920. This coming year marks the centennial of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment and with a historic election coming up, the Library of Congress has organized “Shall Not Be Denied: Women Fight for the Vote,” a sweeping exhibit that pays tribute pioneering activists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B Anthony as well as the countless women who drove what some call the biggest reform movement in US history. The exhibit chronicles the origins of women’s suffrage in abolitionism through the fiery campaigns of the early 20th century. It features personal items like Anthony’s annotated copy of Mary Wollstonecraft’s “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman” as well as items like tote bags, sheet music, and cookbooks and other totems of support as the movement gained momentum. Runs through September 2020. Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame - Cleveland, Ohio If an instrument is, as they say, merely an extension of a musician, then “Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll” will get you closer to rock legends than you ever imagined. Co-curated by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where it ran to much acclaim from April through October, and the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame, the show features over 100 instruments that belonged to icons and were used to perform some of the most familiar, game-changing songs in history like Jimi Hendrix’s guitar, The Who’s Keith Moon’s drum set, Patti Smith’s clarinet, and The Doors’ Ray Manzarek’s organ. Vintage concert posters and eccentric costumes boost the groovy mood. Runs through September 13, 2020. Museum of Fine Arts Houston - Houston, Texas Franklin Delano Roosevelt dedicated his presidency to preserving and furthering what’s become known as the Four Freedoms: Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Fear, and Freedom from Want. Norman Rockwell, one of the best-known chronicler of everyday life in postwar America, gave a human face to each one of those freedoms in the now-iconic paintings he made in 1943, emotional images of everyday people in expressive scenes of family, prayer, and civic courage. “Norman Rockwell: American Freedom” at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston is the first comprehensive exhibit dedicated to the Four Freedoms. The works are accompanied by historical documents, photos and artifacts, providing rich context Rockwell’s depictions. Runs through March 22, 2020. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art - San Francisco, California For as long as earthlings have gazed at the stars above, space travel has been a source of fascination. Created for the 50th anniversary of the first moonwalk, “Suits, Habs and Labs for Outer Space” at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is a showcase of how designers envisioned life beyond this planet’s atmosphere. The engaging exhibit features paintings of a free-floating space colony imagined by scientists in the early 1970s to models of living and research spaces on the moon designed by architects in the past decade to colorful 3D-printed prototypes of sleek alternatives to the bulky space suit, this show demonstrates how visionary dreamers imagined the seeming impossible becoming possible. Runs through January 20, 2020. Baltimore, Maryland The works of iconic women artists like Georgia O’Keeffe and Elizabeth Calett sit side by side with lesser known but no less great painters like Marguerite Zorach and Maria Martinez. Baltimore Museum of Art’s landmark show, “By their Creative Force: American Women Modernists,” (a term taken from the writings of Virginia Woolf) consists of 20 carefully selected paintings, sculptures and decorative arts from the museum’s collection. Together, the assortment shows how women participated in and contributed to 20th century art movements, from Abstract Expressionism to Cubism. This exhibit is part of 2020 Vision, the museum’s year-long initiative to celebrate female-identifying artists. Runs through July 5, 2020.

Inspiration

Our Favorite Dreamy Overwater Bungalows

Imagine sitting on a deck with your toes dipped in the warm turquoise water while sipping an exotic blended drink and watching the colorful fish swim beneath you. This is the type of scene you can enjoy in an overwater bungalow. Enjoy everything from snorkeling, scuba diving, fishing and jet skiing to land-lubber activities like learning about the culture, flora, fauna and cuisine. Whether you’re looking to renew your wedding vows or just need some time to chill, you won’t be disappointed. Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora Lounge on a private sunny deck or take a dip in the plunge pool overlooking the crystal clear water in Tahiti at the Four Seasons Bora Bora. These thatched huts offer luxury accommodation with high ceilings, a full-size bathroom, teak furnishing and comfortable bedding. The resort also has a soothing over-the-water spa that utilizes Polynesian traditions. Immerse yourself in this tropical paradise by partaking in couple’s snorkeling, dinner for two on a private motu (a small island formed by broken coral and sand), or trying the submarine scooter. For the ultimate splurge, arrive to the resort via the Four Season’s private jet, which offers around-the-world excursions. Image courtesy of Reethi Beach Resort Reethi Beach Resort, Maldives Located on the tiny Fonimagoodhoo Island, the Reethi Beach Resort provides an authentic Maldivian experience. With air-conditioned bungalows, beautiful tropical foliage, smooth and soft sand, and an enticing blue lagoon, you’ll easily slip into a state of Zen. Be sure to take advantage of the on-property PADI 5-star dive center to get an up-close look at the impressive sea life. Afterwards, enjoy a sunset cocktail at the beachfront bar. The resort has four bars and four restaurants that offer a buffet, seated dining, boutique dining, and poolside dining. The Berjaya Langkawai Resort, Malaysia The Berjaya Langkawai Resort, situated on Burau Bay, offers guests the unique opportunity to stay in an overwater bungalow. The accommodations are more like a traditional hotel room with views of the Andaman Sea and includes complimentary hi tea. Have a cocktail in the sunken pool bar, enjoy a luxury yacht experience, go island hopping by jet ski, or end the day with an authentic Thai dinner. Song Saa, Cambodia This private island getaway located on an archipelago will sweep you into serenity with the beauty of the Cambodian coastline. The wooden overwater villas at Song Saa overlook the natural reef teaming with sea life. The pristine water will beckon you to dive in from the deck of your villa. Other activities that the resort offers include Buddhist ceremonies, scuba diving expeditions, a tour of Prek Svay village, or exploring an uninhabited island. Image courtesy of Rosewood MayakobáRosewood Mayakobá, Mexico Enjoy the lush mangroves and the scenic lagoons along the Mexican Riviera Maya at the Rosewood Mayakoba. The modern overwater lagoon suite is the perfect place to take in the serene surroundings. Guests are treated to complimentary mezcal and daily fruit bowl. Take a dip in the heated plunge pool, rinse off. In the rain shower, lounge on the outdoor terrace, or take advantage of the private boat dock to explore the area via on-the-water transportation. Amenities also include on-property golf and tennis, as well as a full-service spa that features hammam (Turkish baths). Likuliku Lagoon Resort, Fiji For laid-back luxury, the adults-only Likuliku Lagoon Resort provides overwater bungalows situated on marine protected sanctuary that reinforces its name, Likuliki means “calm water.” Enjoy a variety of water activities, including a short boat ride to an uninhabited island. The resort supports sustainability and therefore uses natural building materials, which highlights the Fijian culture and landscape. Fill your days with fishing, windsurfing, island hopping, hiking, visiting a local village, get a close up look at the iguanas, or participating in a traditional Kava ceremony. Aitutaki Lagoon Resort and Spa, Cook Islands This private island resort imbibes the tradition and rituals of the Cook Island through its thatched architecture, local seafood dishes, and authentic dance. At the Aitutaki Lagoon Resort, referred to as “Heaven on Earth,” guests can enjoy the ultimate tranquility in the overwater bungalows. The bungalows feature palm-lined walls, tropical decor, and open-air shower. Get to know the Polynesian culture through ‘ura (hula) dancing lessons, ‘ei (lei) making, frond weaving, and pare tying. Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge, Panama Jump off your private overwater cabin’s terrace into the alluring Caribbean Sea at the Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge. Built on stilts and covered with a palm-leaf roof, the nine two-floor suites reflect the traditional building methods of Panama utilizing natural materials such as native woods and plants, clays, leafs, bamboo, and wild cane. Get an aerial view of the island surrounding reefs by taking a plane tour.

Inspiration

5 Ways You Can Celebrate the Fall of the Berlin Wall

Berlin is a vibrant city known for its energy, art scene and historical past. This November marks the 30th Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall signifying freedom and peace. With that momentous anniversary, Berliners and visitors from around the world will be celebrating throughout the month of November. Festivities will range from guided tours and memorials to art installations and festivals surrounding the division of Berlin, the Cold War and the Peaceful Revolution of 1989. Here are some must-see highlights that will be debuting in the coming weeks. Arts Festival From November 4th to the 10th, Berlin will be transformed into an incredible open-air exhibition. The city’s revolution will be commemorated at historic locations with large archive film and image projections, installations, concerts, lectures and more. The festival will conclude on the evening of November 9th at Brandenburg Gate, when the entire city will become the largest concert stage in the world. It will feature legendary musicians, bands and people that were involved in the Peaceful Revolution. Don’t miss the floating art installation made up of 30,000 handwritten messages by Patrick Shearn of Poetic Kinetics. Post-concert, the festivities will continue through the night with dance parties in 27 clubs across Berlin. Because what’s Berlin without a dance party? Guided Tours Tour operators throughout the city are prepared for the influx of tourists visiting Berlin to commemorate the end of divided Germany. Whether you prefer biking, walking or riding in a bus, local tour operators are ready to take you back in time and teach you about the country’s exquisite history. GetYourGuide provides dozens of tours throughout Berlin, including an excursion based upon the secrets of the Communist Capital. During this walking outing, you’ll learn about life behind the Iron Curtain and the secrets of the Stasi secret police. Visit the embassies of four Cold War powers and discover crossing points of the Berlin Wall. The Palace of Tears is one famous border crossing point between East and West Berlin that has since become a museum with exhibitions about Berlin during the Cold War. Hotels have also jumped on board by offering tours in Berlin. Located in the former Western part of the city right near the border, Orania.Berlin is offering a special package in honor of the anniversary. It includes a two-hour tour of the Berlin Wall (which can be done by bike) for guests to learn about the history of the city's division, the struggle for freedom and the process of reunification. Train Trip Why not book an entire trip to learn about Germany’s fascinating history? Well Inntravel has made it pretty easy to do just that with their self-guided rail train, Beyond the Iron Curtain. Journey by rail between the iconic cities of Berlin, Leipzig and Dresden to discover how they emerged from the cloak of the Iron Curtain. Stay two nights in each city using Inntravel walking notes to marvel at their enduring cultural treasures. In Berlin, follow a route that traces its history taking in the magnificently restored Reichstag, Brandenburg Gate and the Wall. Continue to Leipzig, best known for music, but where locals staged the largest protest demonstration in East German history. Last is Dresden which has risen from the ashes and been restored to its former glory. The package includes 6 nights’ accommodations, rail travel between Berlin-Leipzig-Dresden and city walking tour notes.Museums & Exhibits There are loads of museums and exhibits that are honoring the anniversary of the fall of the Wall. The Wall Museum East Side Gallery tells the full picture of the story of the Wall from the reasons for building the Wall to its dramatic fall in 1989. Their new exhibit is a multi-media experience that uses more than one hundred screens and projectors to guide viewers through the division of Germany. It chronicles the stories of how the wall changed people’s lives. And shows a unique perspective into the unknown side of the Cold War, showcasing the different perspectives from both the East and West by using newsreels from the 1960’s. If you want to be immersed in the history of Germany’s tumultuous past, this exhibit is surely where to do just that. 3D Reality Experience Augmented reality app MauAR, brings the Wall to life and allows users to visualize the division of Berlin from 1961 to 1989. Users can use the app in the camera view of their smartphone or tablet to point at spots where the wall previously stood to go back in time. Users can jump between three points in time – 1961, 1971 and 1981. The app will also debut five special episodes that will recount the story of the Berlin Wall and key moments in the history of the Peaceful Revolution. For example, users can travel back in time to the demonstration held on Alexanderplatz on November 4th, 1989.

Inspiration

Learn a New Skill While Traveling the World

Educational vacations are becoming one of the most popular ways to travel. Tourists are requesting unique local experiences where they can learn a skill, sport or art from residents of that region. So whether you’re looking for an extreme quest or you want to learn an age-old skill, here is a list of activities to try around the world. Sand-Boarding in Doha, Qatar If you’re an adventure junkie, hit the dunes in Qatar because sand-boarding is the new sport for you. Similar to snowboarding (but with sand), this is a regular activity in Qatar for locals and a “must-do” for tourists. There are plenty of tour operators that offer lessons in the desert about 90 minutes south of Doha, the capital city of Qatar. 365 Adventures offers half-day adventures for about $40 where you can learn how to sand-board, dune bash and take in gorgeous views of Khor Al Adaid (Inland Sea). Dust will be flying in that Arabian wind, so thrill-seekers can take a dip in the sea post sand-boarding escapade. By the way, don’t forget your sunscreen, it is the desert. Truffle Hunting in Rome, Italy Italy is the epitome of good food, so this may just be the perfect destination to learn about truffles and how to forage for them. The Rome Cavalieri, A Waldorf Astoria Resort offers guests the ultimate experience in truffle hunting in Umbria. After a quick transit from the hotel, you’ll be greeted upon arrival by the family that has been truffle hunting for centuries and their pack of well-trained dogs. Spend the morning learning tips and tricks that have been handed down for generations as you join the hunt for the elusive truffle. After participating in the hunt, you’ll enjoy a truffle-filled lunch while learning about the best ways to prepare truffle dishes. Don’t worry; you’ll depart with a basket full of truffles and firsthand insight on where to find truffles and how to eat them. Mangia! Coasteering in Pembrokeshire, Wales Ever heard of coasteering? This was an activity that surfers in Pembrokeshire coined as they traversed rocky coastlines in the 1980’s. The term coasteering came from combining coast and mountaineering and you can expect just that. A tour guide will take you on an aquatic nature-trail along the cliffs as you explore caves, rock-hop, jump off cliffs and maybe even swim with seals. This is a family friendly activity though, so cliff jumping is not a necessity, as the level of adventure is up to you and your tour guide will lead the way. You’ll be given helmets and life jackets as well, and as long as you’re over the age of eight and you can doggy-paddle this adventure is for you. Glassblowing in Corning, New York The Corning Museum of Glass offers “Make Your Own Glass” classes, where visitors are offered the chance to work with a range of glass techniques. Learn flameworking while making a bead, glassblowing while making a pumpkin or sandblasting where you’ll apply a frosted look design to a cup or dish. These classes are open to all ages and do not require any experience as there will be glassmakers on site to assist and guide participants through the process. The class is up to 40 minutes long depending on the project booked. Your creation will be ready for pick-up the following day! Wood Carving in Oberammergau, Germany Experience an authentic wood carving experience in Oberammergau (located within the Ammergauer Alps), a natural alpine park in Bavaria, Germany. The craft dates back to the middle ages and today approximately sixty active wood sculptors live in Oberammergau carving and selling their pieces. Each shop has hundreds of wooden masterpieces from intricate statues to birdhouses and every kind of figurine you can imagine. The hands-on wood carving experience is 90 minutes and costs approximately $44 per person. You’ll learn the basics of the art of woodcarving and take home your creation. Fly Fishing in Provo River, Utah Try your hand at fly-fishing in scenic Provo River, which is about 45 miles south of Salt Lake City. You can count on the gorgeous flowing waters, along with Mend Fly Fishing to help you catch an abundance of fish on your first outing. During the lesson, you’ll learn the basic concepts of casting, fly selection, reading the water and knot tying (to name a few skills). The Utah native guides all grew up fly-fishing these local waters, so by the end of the day you can expect to have fish swimming your way. A half-day guided tour is $275 and includes all your gear (flies, waders, boots, snacks, beverages, rod). Surfing in Tamarindo, Costa Rica Learning how to surf is every wanderluster’s dream. So pack your bags and head to Costa Rica for this one. Iguana Surf, located in Tamarindo, Costa Rica (along the North Pacific coast) is a surf camp and tour agency. There you can take a few lessons or enroll in a full on surf camp. Iguana Surf caters to beginner surfers who want a local experience while they check out the beautiful sites of Costa Rica. The camp is a one-stop-shop destination that provides surfing accommodations in their picturesque beachfront hotel located directly in front of the most famous break in Tamarindo Beach. You can expect to learn about the art of surfing including, popping up on your board (in and out of the water), how to position your body, how to spot a wave to catch and a newfound respect for the ocean. Hang ten!

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