Historic Cherry Lane Theater sold for $ 11 million


The Cherry Lane Theater, New York’s oldest Off Broadway theater, has been sold to the Lucille Lortel Theater Foundation for $ 11 million, the theater announced Monday.

“It was a great race,” Angelina Fiordellisi, the theater’s executive director, said in a statement. “To stand on the stage where so many of our greatest artists, teams and theater providers have stood, is to know what the history of theater looks like.”

The new owner will be the Lucille Lortel Theater Foundation, which is a few blocks from the Cherry Lane Theater on Christopher Street and has managed the building for a decade. The sale includes the main stage with 179 seats and a studio theater with 60 seats.

Fiordellisi, who has run the nonprofit theater for 97 years since acquiring the building in 1996, will continue to lead the nonprofit production group Cherry Lane Alternative, which will have readings – and possibly productions – in the studio space of the theater.

She had previously announced plans to sell the building at 38 Commerce Street in 2010, citing financial difficulties. At the time, she told the New York Times that the theater was operating on a $ 250,000 deficit, which she attributed to a sharp drop in income from government and foundation support, ticket sales and fundraising. rental fees.

“It’s scary to me what happened to the Off Broadway theater,” Fiordellisi told The Times in 2010. “We have to adhere to the formula of having a movie star in our productions to sell tickets because it “It’s so financially prohibitive. I don’t want to do theater like that.

But eight months later, she reversed her decision due to a significantly reduced deficit, a new manager, and support from neighbors in the theater. Cherry Lane Alternative, the Fiordellisi resident theater company established in 1997, currently has a deficit of $ 100,000, said theater spokesperson Sam Rudy.

The theater, a Greenwich Village institution that has long been a testing ground for new work by emerging artists, reopened at full capacity last month with Jacqueline Novak’s “Get on Your Knees,” a comedy that features a personal and intellectual history of oral sex. It is scheduled until July 31.

Under Fiordellisi, Cherry Lane mentored writers including Katori Hall, who won this year’s Pulitzer Prize in theater for “The Hot Wing King”; Antoinette Chinonye Nwandu, whose play “Pass Over” will premiere on Broadway in August after being produced at the theater in 2016; and Jocelyn Bioh, whose “Merry Wives,” a contemporary interpretation of Shakespeare’s “Merry Wives of Windsor,” is presented at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park.

Cherry Lane was founded by a group of artists who were colleagues of Edna St. Vincent Millay and presented works by Samuel Beckett, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Eugene O’Neill and Tennessee Williams. But despite its rich history, the theater hadn’t staged a play for two years when Fiordellisi bought it for $ 1.7 million in 1996 and renovated it for $ 3 million.

Cherry Lane Alternative, the non-profit production group, said it plans to resume a scaled-down version of its famous Mentor Project, which pairs up-and-coming writers with established playwrights like Lynn Nottage, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins and Taylor Mac. to develop and stage their work in the studio-theater space. It will probably include one production per season instead of the usual three.

George Forbes, executive director of the Lucille Lortel Theater Foundation, said the foundation plans to announce new programming shortly.

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