Caffe Cino Goes Up in Smoke


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March 11, 1965, Vol. X, No. 21

Joe Cino’s World Goes Up In Flames

By Michael Smith

The Caffe Cino was destroyed by fire on Ash Wednesday morning. The cafe at 31 Cornelia Street opened in December, 1958, and quickly became important as New York’s most tenacious and active cafe theatre. For several years the Cino had been producing plays, changing the program every week, and an emphasis on original scripts had led to the discovery of several talented new playwrights.

The fire, thought to have been caused by a gas leak, completely destroyed the interior of the cafe, but the structure of the building was not affected. The cafe occupies the ground floor of a tenement building. Credit for containing the fire goes to the fireproof ceiling of the cafe, recently installed as part of a new lighting system. Ironically, the final payment for the ceiling had been made two days before the fire.

Immediately after the fire plans were undertaken for the rebuilding of the Caffe Cino. Joseph Cino, founder and proprietor of the cafe and impresario of its plays, has been given a temporary home-in-exile at the Cafe La Mama, where Ellen Stewart has created a cafe theatre partly modeled on the Cino; on Sunday and Monday nights for the next few weeks the Cafe La Mama will be run by Cino and his staff, and plays scheduled for the Cino will be performed there.

Meanwhile a group of actors, directors, and playwrights who have worked at the Caffe Cino have banded together to raise money for reconstruction. In addition to appeals for contribution, the group, which is headed by H.M. Koutoukas, is sponsoring a benefit program to be given two performances at the Writers Stage Theatre on Monday, March 15. The program will consist of new short works by Caffe Cino playwrights and others, including Lanford Wilson, Claris Nelson, Paul Foster, David Starkweather, Arthur Kopit, Michael Smith, Ruth Yorck, and Mr. Koutoukas…

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