Cherry Lane Theatre in New York – wonderfully old and lovely

I have just discovered this lovely old theatre online. It’s called Cherry Lane Theatre which is sweet in itself and it’s history goes back to 1817 – I am in love!

Here is the story of a lovely theatre that I hope to frequent one of these days:

Once the site of a silo on the Gomez farm in 1817, the building that now stands at 38 Commerce Street was first erected as a brewery in 1836 and later served as a tobacco warehouse and box factory.

In 1924, a group of theater artists, colleagues of Edna St. Vincent Millay, commissioned famed scenic designer Cleon Throckmorton to convert the box factory into Cherry Lane Playhouse. It fueled some of the most ground-breaking experiments in the chronicles of the American Stage. The Downtown Theater movement, The Living Theatre, and Theatre of the Absurd all took root at the lively Playhouse, and it proved fertile ground for scores of 20th century dramaturgy’s seminal voices.

From this village jewel streamed a large succession of plays by nascent writers whose names have lent distinction to the American and international literary and dramatic treasuries from F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dos Passos and Elmer Rice in the ’20s to Eugene O’Neill, Sean O’Casey, Clifford Odets, W.H. Auden, Gertrude Stein, T.S. Elliot and William Saroyan in the ’40s and ’50s to Samuel Beckett, Edward Albee, Harold Pinter, Eugene Ionesco and LeRoi Jones in the ’60s to Sam Shepard, Lanford Wilson, Joe Orton and David Mamet in the ’70s and ’80s.

The Playhouse productions featured an equally illustrious group of actors and directors including John Malkovich, Barbra Streisand, Gene Hackman, Beatrice Arthur, James Earl Jones, Colleen Dewhurst, Vincent Gardenia, Cicely Tyson, Alan Schneider, Dolores Sutton, Harvey Keitel, Judd Hirsch, Tony Curtis, Claudia Shear, Gary Sinise, Jerry Stiller, Rue McClanahan, Maxwell Caulfield, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Fritz Weaver, Roy Scheider, Frances Sternhagen, F. Murray Abraham, Joan Micklin Silver, Peter Falk, Tom Bosley, Micki Grant, Frank Langella, Kim Stanley, John Epperson, Tyne Daly, Robert Loggia, Estelle Parsons, Geraldine Page, Sudie Bond, Jo Ann Worley, Kevin Bacon, Nancy Marchand, James Coco, Burl Ives, Lee Strasberg, Franchot Tone, Roscoe Lee Browne, Tony Musante, Robert Wilson, Adolf Green and Betty Comden, Alvin Epstein, Dennis Quaid, Randy Quaid, Joan Cusack and Joseph Chaikin.

Angelina Fiordellisi revived Cherry Lane, preserved the building, a detailed history, founded the Cherry Lane Alternative and created a number of programs to launch the next generation of American playwrights (see Studio history below.)

Studio History

Cherry Lane Studio opened its doors in September, 1998 as a birthing room for new American work. Owner and Founding Artistic Director of the Cherry Lane Alternative Angelina Fiordellisi created the 60-seat black-box theater, originally named the “Alternative Space,” with Samuel Anderson Architects.  At that time, CLT Studio benefited from the generosity of our community, including theater-operator and producer Carolyn Rossi Copeland, who donated sixty chairs from The Lamb’s Theater basement, as well as producing artist Jack Gindi, who donated our technical booth, sound and lighting boards. The seating was upgraded and made retractable in 2006 with a generous grant provided by New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

Prior to its present incarnation, the 1,200-square-foot space housed a restaurant in the 1950s that was built and managed by the Carroad family, who once owned and operated the entire block.  The yard behind their building at 44 Commerce Street served as an outdoor eating area for the restaurant during spring and summer, and the Cherry Lane boiler once served all the properties on this stretch of Commerce Street. The Cherry Lane restaurant, which had a floor dotted with gold-plated fleurs-de-lis, also served as a late-night gay club in the 60s and 70s.

Arnold Warwick, a tenant at 40 Commerce Street since 1950, claims that the Carroad family evicted an old sea captain in order to create a public ante room where our current lobby is located. Kim Hunter’s children, who grew up in the building, tell the story of an excavation next door at 36 Commerce Street in the late 50s that not only revealed an underground river, but also thousands of turtles.

The Cherry Lane Studio is a safe haven for the development of new plays. Our programs allow playwrights to hone their work without the pressure of reviews before sophisticated, thrill-seeking audiences who want to discover the bold new voices of today. David Adjmi, Courtney Baron, Sheila Callaghan, Julia Cho, Bathsheba Doran, Anton Dudley, Sam Forman, Katori Hall, Jakob Holder, Eliam Kraiem, Deborah Zoe Laufer, Rajiv Joseph, Rogelio Martinez, Winter Miller, Deirdre O’Connor, Christopher Shinn, Beau Willimon, Bridgette Wimberly, Anne Washburn and numerous others have all developed new ideas and plays at the CLT Studio. Our studio- theater programming is a critical component of our mission to build a community to support the playwriting process and the future of American drama.

If you would like to find out more they are on the electrical interweb thingy:

Cherry Lane Theatre
38 Commerce Street
New York, NY 10014
Phone: 212.989.2020
Fax: 212.989.2867
New fangled electronic mail:

About Anita in Mrs Antil's Apartment

I am female, I love to feel free, I love to walk and explore, and I love animals and I want to find out more about them. Spending time with
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1 Response to Cherry Lane Theatre in New York – wonderfully old and lovely

  1. Pingback: AHI: United States » Theatre of the inequitably absurd

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