Extreme Makeovers

For adventurous theater companies, all the world's a stage—literally

Sometimes the frustrations of working in these repurposed spaces overwhelm the pleasures. Hourglass Group artistic director Elyse Singer, who staged numerous plays at the NADA theaters, which once ringed Ludlow Street, now prefers a more traditional space. She reasons, "I want to do cutting-edge work, I want to do exciting work, but I have to treat my actors like the professionals that they are. I want an environment where they're not going to have to step on broken glass or walk up to the sixth floor where there's no heat." Boo Froebel, an associate producer at the Lincoln Center Festival who programmed performance evenings at Clemente Soto Vélez (a former school), Dixon Place (then the living room of an apartment on the Bowery), and Galapagos (once a mayonnaise factory), admits, "Sometimes as a producer you wish you could offer your artists a little more comfort. Everyone was very good-humored about dressing in a small alley, albeit a covered one, but after a few years that good humor does wear thin." However, Froebel still enjoys unusual spaces as an audience member and raves about the Issue Project Room, housed in an oil silo in Gowanus, and Chez Bushwick, a monthly performance evening held in a Brooklyn loft.

The Daryl Roth Theatre, formerly the Union Square Savings Bank
photo: Brian Kennedy
The Daryl Roth Theatre, formerly the Union Square Savings Bank


See also:
Winners! Pictures! Stars of the Stage!
The 51st Annual Obie Awards


The gentlemen opening the Box have the advantage of some $2 million in investment capital, to say nothing of their reserves of brashness, and they may create that most unlikely of playhouses—a retrofitted space with more than its share of luxuries. "I hate going to the theater," Hammerstein complains, "to a smelly room without air-conditioning and we're all cramped up and I'm going to get a cold because someone's breathing in my face. We all love the theater. But we're frustrated." Kimmel and Weiner nod in agreement. They all love the history of their space and its architectural details, but they prefer their vision of comfort and elegance. "We want it to be that rare thing," Weiner explains, "[a place] no one has ever been to before. It's not merely resurfaced. It's purpose-built for us."

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