overview

Opened in 1925 as the Guild Theater and renamed the ANTA Playhouse in 1950 and the Virginia Theater in 1981, this venue staged multiple productions involving major LGBT performers and creators, including Alfred Lunt, Lynn Fontanne, Emlyn Williams, Mary Martin, Tyrone Power, Thornton Wilder, Lorenz Hart, Eva Le Gallienne, and Gore Vidal, among others.

The venue was renamed the August Wilson Theater in 2005.

Header Photo
Credit: Evan Tuten/NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, 2022.

History

Guild Theater
This venue opened as the Guild Theater in 1925. Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, a Broadway couple who had one of the most famous “lavender marriages” (a marriage in which one or both partners are gay) of their time, were heavily associated with the Guild Theater in its first decade.

Lunt and Fontanne acted in ten plays together, and also separately in four other plays:

  • Arms and the Man (revival, 1925), The Goat Song (1926), At Mrs. Bream’s (1926), The Brothers Karamazov (1927), The Second Man (1927), Volpone (1928) by Stefan Zweig, Caprice (1928-29), Meteor (1929-30), Elizabeth the Queen (1930-31), and The Taming of the Shrew (revival, 1935-36)
  • Fontanne appeared in Pygmalion (revival, 1926-27)
  • Lunt, together with Sanford Meisner, acted in Juarez and Maximillian (1926), The Doctor’s Dilemma (revival, 1927-28), and Marco Millions (1928)

 

Other productions at the Guild with LGBT creators:

 

LGBT performers at the Guild:

 

ANTA Playhouse
After a time as a radio station, in 1950 this venue became the ANTA (American National Theatre and Academy) Playhouse.

Productions by LGBT creators and with LGBT performers included:

 

Virginia Theater
In 1981, it was renamed the Virginia Theater.

The biggest LGBT-associated hits were:

  • On Your Toes (revival, 1983-84) by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, with lyrics by Hart (Best Reproduction Tony Award) and production design by Zack Brown
  • City of Angels (1989-92), with costume design by Florence Klotz
  • Jelly’s Last Jam (1992-93) by and directed by George C. Wolfe
  • Smokey Joe’s Cafe (1995-2000), with costume design by William Ivey Long, and with Lesley Gore as a guest star

 

Other LGBT-associated shows at the Virginia:

  • Alice in Wonderland (revival, 1982-83) by Eva Le Gallienne and Florida Friebus, with scenic design by John Lee Beatty, with actors Le Gallienne and Edward Hibbert
  • Wild Honey (1986-87), with Ian McKellen
  • My Fair Lady (revival, 1993-94), with Richard Chamberlain
  • The Wild Party (2000) by George C. Wolfe and Michael John LaChiusa, and with music and lyrics by LaChiusa
  • The Best Man (revival, 2000) by Gore Vidal, with actor Jonathan Hadary

 

Entry by Jay Shockley, project director (June 2019, with multiple additions).

NOTE: Names above in bold indicate LGBT people.

Building Information

  • Architect or Builder: C. Howard Crane & Kenneth Franzheim
  • Year Built: 1924-25

Sources

  1. Adam Hetrick, “The Work of Broadway’s Gay and Lesbian Artistic Community Goes on Display Nov. 14 When the Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation Gallery Presents ‘StageStruck: The Magic of Theatre Design’,” Playbill, Nov. 14, 2007.

  2. ANTA Theater Designation Report (New York: Landmarks Preservation Commission, 1985).

  3. Internet Broadway Database.

  4. The 1st List of: Gay/Lesbian/Bi Industry People, Both in Front and Behind the Camera,” www.imdb.com, May 31, 2013.

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