It’s looking like curtains for Greenwich Village’s storied Cherry Lane Theater, saddening preservationists, drama fans and neighborhood loyalists.
The Commerce Street playhouse, plagued by weak ticket sales, dwindling grants and decreased government support, will reportedly go on the market for $12 million. A $250,000 deficit prompted the sale, artistic director Angelina Fiordellisi told the New York Times. Fiordellisi, who said she would step down between next year, told the paper that “what’s happened to Off Broadway theater” is frightening.
The Cherry Lane’s loss “is a tragedy,” Andrew Berman, executive director of the
Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, told amNewYork. “The Cherry Lane is the embodiment of the Village’s artistic and cultural history.”
The closing is the latest theater serial killings in the Village. The Circle in the Square, the
Sullivan Street Playhouse, the Perry Street Theater and Variety Arts Theater, “have all
been closed in just the last couple years,” Berman observed.
Rising real estate prices “have certainly provided additional incentive to sell,” he noted.
Cherry Lane, founded in 1924 by a group of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s friends, was an
incubator for new directors and playwrights, as well as young, upcoming stars such as Barbra Streisand and Gene Hackman, said Gabriel Shanks, executive director of The Drama League. “Now we’ve lost that training ground,” he said.
“Every theater in New York is struggling,” Shans said, and facing pressure to put up the names of stars from the silver screen and television on their marquees. But there is no reason that new owners could not revive the place as a profitable theater, should the buyers be able to acquire it for the right price.
Berman dearly hopes that’s the case, noting that the site is landmarked, and its use as a theater is grandfathered into a residentially zoned area.
Jillian Hassett, 29, who interned at the Cherry Lane in 2003, felt like she was losing a piece of her own history. The felling of the Cherry Lane, said the Upper West Side resident, “makes me really sad. I have such good memories of my internship there. They really fostered new artists.”