West Village Jewels: Our Theatres

By Gordon Hughes

There is a “must read” article in the May issue of The Village View by Dan Bianchi who covered the rich history of “Off Broadway” south of 14th St.

I have been a bit of a West Village chronicler for several years now. I’m also B’Way investor/producer who has served on the Board of the New York Theatre Workshop and as a member of Vineyard Theatre committees. But I have yet to cover my own back yard. I want to focus on my briar patch, the West Village, which I describe as south of 14th east of the Hudson River, north of Houston and west of 7th Avenue. In that tight location there are at least 11 theaters and or rehearsal halls. Not bad for such a small piece of real estate and there is an absolutely remarkable history.

Here are some insights about our Village theatrical gems.

The oldest and perhaps best-known theatre in the Village is the Cherry Lane which opened in 1923. Located at 38 Commerce Street, it has covered the water front in terms of shows and owners. Under new ownership, the theatre is developing a new action plan.

The Lucielle Lortel Theatre, located at 121 Christopher Street was built in 1926 as a movie theatre. It seated 590 and was converted to a playhouse in the early 1950s. Today it seats 299 and is the largest theatre in the Village.
The IRT (Interborough Repertory Theater) is located at 154 Christopher Street in the historic Archive Building. This playhouse is devoted to serving the deaf community and is driven primarily by local Village talent.

The wonderful Barrow Street Theatre, now named Barrow Street Theatricals, is at 27 Barrow Street. Located in a remarkable historic building constructed in 1917, it opened as a 199-seat theater in 2003. It has seen a number of theatre companies as well as many productions and memorable B’Way hits.

The New West Village Rehearsal Co-Op at 68 Gansevoort St is unique in that it is shared by a number of theatre companies. If you are considering working a new play you might just give them a call.

The Rattlestick Theater at 224 Waverly Place was established in 1994. With 99 seats this theatre prides itself as a home of diverse and provocative plays.

At 50 West 13th Street you will find the former home of the 13th Street Repertory Company which was founded in 1972. With 65 seats this was a true off-off Broadway Theatre. It was proud to be home of the longest running show in off-off Broadway history—Israel Horovitz’s Line which opened in 1974. The theatre has not confirmed if the closure is permanent.

That brings us to the H.B. Studio at 120 Bank Street. It is unique in this group of West Village theatres in that as a non-profit it provides more than just theatrical productions. The theatre offers acting classes, workshops, free lectures, theatre production and a theatre residency program. The program was founded in 1945. An amazing number of talents have passed through their doors. This includes the likes of William H Macy, Lorna Luft, Marsha Mason, Steve McQueen and many more.

Of course, we could not do this column and not mention Dan Bianchi’s RadioTheatre at St. John’s Sanctuary, 81 Christopher St. off 7th Ave. All kinds of innovative new material and works are presented. A fun theatre to check out.

Another West Village gem is The New Ohio Theatre at 154 Christopher Street. Sadly, the theatre is slated to close this August after a 30 year run.

Well, that is a quick tour of our West Village Off-B’Way theaters and they are truly gems. S0 go out and support these theaters with their revivals and edgy works too. It’s all right here—so run, don’t walk, to a playhouse near you.