For the past 29 years, the Ohio Theatre, a former pin factory located at 66 Wooster Street in Soho, has played host to some of the city’s most experimental and inventive theater companies. A statement released today announced that the theater will close on August 31, 2010, following the final iteration of their annual, Obie-Award-winning Ice Factory Festival. The Ohio will be providing space on their website (SohoThinkTank.org) where artists and fans can contribute some of their favorite reminiscences of the thousands of theatrical events that have taken place there over the years.
Though largely a rental house, artistic director Robert Lyons chose the companies who used the Ohio with some care, showing a preference for insouciant, innovative performance. Local groups past and present associated with the Ohio include ERS, Tiny Mythic, Ma-Yi, the Play Company, the Foundry, Adobe Theater, Arden Party, Les Freres Corbusier, Clubbed Thumb, Target Margin, New Georges, and the Talking Band. And late each summer, in the Ice Factory, Lyons would serve as producer, inviting these companies and others to premiere new work. Lyons is now in talks with some of these companies about forming a coalition and securing a new venue.
An unusual space, long with columns throughout, the Ohio and its architecture often influenced the staging of shows, and many companies—Clubbed Thumb perhaps chief among them—delighted in exploiting all the theater’s nooks. (No one could have delighted in the primitive bathrooms, but that’s the price of playing Downtown.) The loss of the Ohio is yet another in the list of singular, slightly gritty houses that have vanished from the East Village, the West Village, the Lower East Side, and Soho within the past decade. Reached at the theater, Lyons commented that today’s gray and rainy weather very much reflected his mood. He described the theater’s closing as a loss not only to “the community of artists, but also to the city’s sense of identity. The city is changing, and this is part of that change.”
A few of my favorite shows at the Ohio include Pig Iron’s Chekhov Lizardbrain, David Greenspan’s The Myopia, Les Freres Corbusier’s Boozy, Lisa D’Amour’s Red Death, and the Rude Mechanicals’ Lipstick Traces. Do leave your most scintillating memories of the space in the comments.