Once appropriately known as the Little Theatre, the Helen Hayes Theatre is the smallest Broadway theatre with just over 600 seats.   In fact, when it first opened in 1912, it had half the seating capacity, and its intimate productions led the way for what became known as the Little Theatre Movement in the early 20th century.   The theatre is also unique for its Neo-Classical facade, standing out among a sea of other Classical or Beaux Arts theatres on Broadway.

The theatre changed hands””and names””a few times in the hundred years of its existence.   In 1931, it was sold to the New York Times and converted into a conference hall.   CBS used the theatre as a radio studio, ABC as a television studio.   Notable filmings and broadcasts include “The Dick Clark Show”, Johnny Carson’s “Who Do You Trust?”, “The Merv Griffin Show”, and “The David Frost Show”, so basically a who’s who of early twentieth century television.     During this illustrious period, the theatre was renamed four times, twice of which were the Little Theatre.

The theatre was finally christened the Helen Hayes Theatre after the original Helen Hayes Theatre on West 46th Street was bulldozed to make room for a Marriott hotel.   Because Ms. Hayes was still alive at the time, the powers that be decided to rename the Little Theatre in her name rather than have her outlive her monument.

Since 1979, the theatre has been privately owned and operated, and home to over twenty Broadway productions, including current production “Rock of Ages.” In 2008, it was announced that Second Stage Theatre, the fifth largest NY non-profit theatre company, was planning on acquiring the Helen Hayes.   With a projected first season starting next year, Second Stage Theatre’s Helen Hayes will become the only Broadway theatre dedicated solely to plays and musicals written by American playwrights and composers.

Shot of the overhead chandelier and ceiling detail

Second Stage is requesting support for the restoration of the façade of the theatre, including repair of the entranceway, surrounding columns and cornice, signage, windows, shutters, lighting, and masonry. However, a bit ironically, management did not allow this photographer to take photos of the exterior façade for this article.   For those curious, please feel free to Google Image Search the theatre.

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Helen Hayes Theater [Map]
240 West 44th Street
New York, NY 10036

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