You have no idea how many times this native has planned to see a show, enters the building, and then leaves curious about how the owner repurposed the space for art. It’s easy to miss if you find yourself outside of the amazing theatre district during the day. However, if you are a theatre lover, especially of Off Broadway, Off Off Broadway, performance art, and/or avant garde, then we have a fun and artistic scavenger hunt for you. We present the many repurposed theaters in New York City. Happy hunting!
1. The Davenport Theatre
The Davenport Theatre, located at 354 W. 45th Street, is a former firehouse. Though it has been a theatre for 30 years, remnants of its past are found throughout the building and especially in the basement where the restrooms are located. If you look close, you can see a fire ax and ladder. Ken Davenport, Tony-Award winning Broadway and Off Broadway producer was moved as soon as he walked through the doors of the former 45th Street Theatre. “I walked into my theater as a patron a few years ago and remembered thinking . . . I want this. It’s an intimate jewel box just steps away from Times Square where you can see Broadway performers do their thing just a few feet away from you.”
Current Show: Daddy Long Legs The Musical
2. The Clemente
The Clemente (a/k/a the Clemente Soto Veléz Culture and Educational Center Inc. or CSV) is located at 107 Suffolk Street in Lower East Side. Built in 1897, this building was formerly PS 160 which was vacated after a fire in the 1970s. The theatre was named after Clemente Soto Veléz who was a Puerto Rican activist, nationalist and journalist. CSV is home to four theater spaces (The Flamboyan Theater, Los Kabayitos Theater, LATEA Theater, Teatro SEA) and two galleries (the Abrazo Interno Gallery and LES Gallery), as well as rehearsal spaces.
Current Show: Escape the Room
3. The Triad
The Triad is located at 158 West 72nd Street in a non-descript building. According to the 1919 Certificate of Occupancy, this building has a bachelor apartment. “Not more than 15 rooms to be used for sleeping purposes” and “NOTE: Cooking in more than two of the apartments will render this building liable to immediate vacation by the Tenement House Department.” The building ironically housed restaurants/supper clubs for a few decades before becoming a theatre space which launched Forbidden Broadway in 1982 (formerly Palsson’s Supper Club).
The Triad Theater is a multi-purpose live entertainment venue that seats 120 patrons in a beautiful environment reminiscent of the movie palaces of the 1930s. Peter Martin, owner of The Triad, share that the theater is housed in a Brownstone from the 1890s and located on 72nd Street on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
Current Shows: Various Shows
4. Theatre 80 St. Marks
Theatre 80 St. Marks has a rich history going back to Prohibition. Located at 80 St. Mark’s Place, the theatre was a speakeasy turned into an artists’ haven during the Golden Era of Hollywood. If you look down while standing in front of the theatre, you can see New York’s version of celebrity handprints and footprints from that time. Jazz greats like Thelonius Monk and Frank Sinatra performed there. Before being an important space for artists, it was at one point a cinema. Today, the Museum of the American Gangster shares the space with the theater, along with a bar.
Current Show: Full House the Musical
5. The Kraine
The Kraine is a landmarked building located at 85 East 4th Street and is one of the three theaters that the Horse Trade Theater Group calls home. In 1922, the building housed the Ukrainian – a dance hall and meeting rooms. The KGB Bar is located on the second floor and was a “speakeasy for Ukrainian Socialists.” It is also renowned among literary circles.
Current Show: Various Festivals and Shows
6. Nuyorican Poets Cafe
Nuyorican Poets Cafe, located at 236 East 3rd Street, is over a hundred years old and home to “groundbreaking works of poetry, music, theater and visual arts.” Daniel Gallant, Executive Director, shares some great history about the building. “The building later sat derelict for years, until it was purchased by La MaMa during the infancy of the off-off Broadway scene. In 1981, the building was sold to the organization that would become the Nuyorican Poets Cafe for $7,800.”
During its tenement years, the building held a ground-floor shop, in the space that is now used to stage poetry slams, plays and concerts. Brick fireplaces from the long-gone upper floor apartments are still visible. They’ll soon be renovating those upper floors (which held parties, rehearsals, and squatters in decades past, and are rumored to be haunted), in order to build a second performance space, office space and classroom space, as well as to remove some of the old fireplaces that have started to crumble. After the renovations, the upper floors will be able to accommodate thousands of artists, students and spectators each year.
Photo via Malini Singh McDonald
8. The Point
9. Snug Harbor Cultural Center
10. Post Theatre
Post Theatre, located in Building T4 at Fort Tilden, in the Rockaways is home to Rockaway Theatre Company. The fort was established in 1917, though it was an important military installation dating to the War of 1812. The now defunct fort serves the community with its beautiful beaches and a rich cultural arts center. Roger Gonzalez, Editor of Local Theatre New York says that the “coolest thing is the structure [Building T4 ] itself has not changed from its original appearance, especially the exterior. Inside, the seats are original except for thecushions. The place has character and has transitioned well”. Fort Tilden is on the National Register of Historic Places.