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Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Pouring Some Out...

Guest Post from David-

I have recently been thinking- perhaps under the larger heading of "Mortal Panic"- of how many theaters I have learned, performed and directed in that are gone.

All of the challenging, funky and lived-in spaces that Emerson College had at 69 Brimmer Street have been gutted and, I believe, have become luxury housing. The Actor's Workshop in Boston, where I directed SubUrbia for The Other Theater, (starring a young, still-acting Matthew Freeman as Jeff), is now a building with a lot of little medical offices in it.

That old Theater Row building, that was on the corner of 42nd Street and Dyer, was a big part of my life when I got to New York City. We rented out the old Abingdon Theater space on the fourth floor to do a production of As You Like It, and then Matthew Trumbull and I got involved with Pulse Ensemble, who used to do shows on the bottom and second-story level, as well as in the courtyard in front of the... was it the John Housman Theater? (Also, has anyone noticed that Wikipedia has thorough articles for every comic book character in the world, but no comprehensive listing for New York City Theaters? I could easily find out who all of Wolverine's old girlfriends are, but no entry for The John Housman Theater to let me know if that is the place I'm thinking of. Do the Theatre equivalents of comic-book geeks just not like Wikipedia?)

Well, anyway, that's all torn down. That corner will eventually have another big condo building on it, I believe.

So, risking mortal panic of your own, what are some of the theaters you worked in, loved or perhaps begrudgingly loved warts and all that are gone? Spill some out for us.

11 comments:

gruyere said...

It was the Douglas Fairbanks that had the courtyard--the John Houseman opened directly onto the street.

Matthew Trumbull said...

Wasn't that courtyard in front of the Douglas Fairbanks Theatre?

I imagine that theatre is long gone.

David D. said...

Douglas Fairbanks! That is the one. Thanks for that.

... And it is another theater that has no Wiki entry.

However, Wikipedia was able to confirm for me that- of the two Duke Cousins that filled in for Bo and Luke when Schneider and Wopat wanted more money- Coy Duke was the blond one.

So, it is not like all history and memory is being lost.

Art said...

Hey Matt,

I produced one of the last shows in the old Actors Workshop. On move-in day we were greeted by a dead rat in the tech booth! As you probably remember, the lights were a dicey affair there and they would suddenly flicker during performances. We did a short play festival called A Random Bit of Nonsense about Yul Brenner. (One of my favorite titles of all time.

We also produced THE last show in the Leland Center at the Boston Center for the Arts. It was a flexible space that served smaller theatre companies well over the years. Designers could do amazing things with it. Now it is the "Beehive" one of the most happening night spots in Boston.

I have produced and performed at The Chamber Theatre in Seattle a few times. Though it is still there, the news I read is that the new landlords may make it difficult for them.

jengordonthomas said...

there used to be an interesting space in soho i liked called the One Dream. no mas.

Jeffrey Alexander Lewonczyk said...

Piper McKenzie got its start largely at the Theatorium on Stanton, which was booted out due to increasing rents - as of last summer, several years after it lost its lease, absolutely nothing had been done with the building and property.

Many of the people who have landed at The Brick were regulars at other lamented LES spaces, such as Collective:Unconscious (though they're still operating in some form in Tribeca), Surf Reality, and, especially, Nada. These spaces have largely been transformed into bars and stuff, which the area didn't have nearly enough of.

One of the great support complexes of that era is also long gone: Charas, the East Village community center where so many people rehearsed the shows that were performed at these places that no longer exist. It was like CSV, but somewhat scuzzier. A city-owned building, Giuliani sold it to some crap real estate mogul who kicked out all the neighborhood people who'd worked really hard to turn it into a community hub, and it too has been sitting there, vacant and fallow, for many years.

Okay, now I'm depressed. Thanks, David!

Philucifer [aka Charlie Willis] said...

Yeah, Surf Reality was one of the first places Nosedive really dug into. Robert Prichard was really nice to us as we were getting started. Loved that space.

And 42nd Street and Dyer was a great building -- other than Horsetrade, where the hell are you going to find someplace with a nice theater space on EVERY FLOOR? When Emerging Artists was up there, we were able to do several fundraisers there, thanks to Paul Adams.

And even though it isn't a theatre space, The Raven bar that used to be over @ 12th and Ave. A was the official Nosedive hangout. We had every production meeting there, spent New Years, birthdays, it's where I met James for the first time, re-connected with Pete after college, and it was our unofficial home.

Pete got the last pint there, as the sucker caught fire around us and went up in flames. We were waiting for the rest of the crew to arrive for a prod. meeting.

And I ALWAYS wanted to do a show at the Theatorium.

Friday melancholia . . .

Ian G. said...

One Dream was a fantastic space. I saw and worked on many a show at Nada. I was dying to do something at the Theatorium, maybe my favorite off-off space while it lasted.

I have improbably fond memories of Ludlow Street bastion Expanded Arts, maybe the all-time champ for Ironically Named Space. The first time I went there, it was summer, and I was asked to wait while they auditioned actors in their narrow ground-floor lobby, maybe twenty or twenty-five feet long and eight feet wide. In the rear was a curtain, which I presumed led to the space itself. A row of chairs lined each of the long walls, making the really narrow space even narrower. I remember thinking: This is ridiculous - do they have some kind of precious sprung-floor set they don't want people walking on? I didn't get cast, but lo and behold I returned to see another show there and was seated for the perfomance in that same awkwardly-shaped lobby. Yeah, that actually was the space. Behind that curtain where I was sure the "real space" must be was just prop storage and dressing area. Actors came out and acted their asses off in the runway between our knees. It was twenty minutes of "you've gotta be effin' kidding me" followed by "y'know, this is kind of charming".

A few years later I did a really lovely production of "Pericles" there. It worked as well as it did only because we and the audience were all wedged in this improbable space, sharing a story. Very cool, ultimately.

David D. said...

Art- It sounds like you were the sort of kiss of death for Boston spaces!

I had forgot about the terrible Actors Workshop "booth". Barely room for people in that thing, not to mention the dead rats.

Do you remember the guy who ran that space? He taught classes out of there, too. He was an old-school Boston-area commercial actor, a real character guy, and he had all of his old print work on the walls. I remember his niche seemed to be making unhappy faces. In the photos he was usually a guy who couldn't get the paste out of the tube or something, and would be looking at the camera as if to say, "Well what am I going to do with THIS?" and the copy would say something like, "Trouble with your paste tubes? Try this product...".

And I guess he taught classes on that. He never talked to me much while we were working there, but he would always chat up the young ladies in the cast.

Jeff- I had forgotten about Charas. That place was great, for being what it was, and really felt like a piece of old New York City. Which, of course, means that it is gone now.

Another place that came to mind today- and the space is still there and hopefully will get some use- is The Lost Nation Theater in Montpelier, Vermont. They worked out of this great, spacious theater in the town hall building (and you know you are in a cool city when there is a big theater in their town hall building). I heard recently that Lost Nation is gone, but hopefully someone else will get the use of that venue.

Matthew Trumbull said...

I just laughed remembering the old Pulse Ensemble theatre, which had company actor member headshots on the wall behind the long counter that served as the box office and refreshment bar. (What an odd assortment of kitchenware there was was behind that counter). The artistic director was unusually preoccupied with the up-to-dateness of the headshot display. Any actor who was on the outs with the company for any reason--not putting in their helper "hours", not showing up to "meetings", etc.--was off the wall in a flash. Except for the headshots of famous film character actress Lynne Thigpen, and Quentin Crisp. They hadn't put in their "hours" for a many a year, and I never saw either one at a meeting, but their headshots stayed on the wall, because they were famous. Get famous or take out the trash--that's how you stayed on the wall.

RLewis said...

Not a theater, but I do miss Dwyer's Pub on 42nd just east of 9th Ave. 10pm till closing almost any night you could go in there and find the casts of half a dozen shows or more.

But my most peculiar recall is of the glassed-in space between the Fairbanks and the street - it served many uses from diner to lobby to Pulse performance space, but the oddest was when it briefly served as an Urban Natural Museum. Nothing weirder than walking past and looking in on stuffed pigeons, squirrels, sparrows and even rats. Odd indeed.