overview

Opened as the Mansfield Theater in 1926 and renamed the Brooks Atkinson Theater in 1960, this venue has staged multiple productions involving major LGBT performers and creators, including Marc Blitzstein, Emlyn Williams, Marshall W. Mason, William Ritman, Claudette Colbert, and John Lee Beatty, among others.

The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore, by Tennessee Williams and starring Tallulah Bankhead and Tab Hunter, was a legendary flop that played here.

The venue was renamed the Lena Horne Theater in 2022.

Header Photo
Credit: Christopher D. Brazee/NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, 2022.

History

Mansfield Theater
The Mansfield Theater opened in 1926. LGBT-associated productions included:

  • The Ladder (1926-28), with actor Ross Alexander
  • The Green Pastures (1930-31), a hit production, with an all-Black cast and Hall Johnson as musical director, and with the Hall Johnson Choir
  • Present Arms (1928), with lyrics by Lorenz Hart
  • Chee-Chee (1928), with lyrics by Lorenz Hart
  • The Cradle Will Rock (revival, 1947-48) by Marc Blitzstein, and with actor Will Geer
  • Lend Me An Ear (1949-50), with scenic, costume and lighting design by Raoul Pene Du Bois (opened at the National Theater)

 

Brooks Atkinson Theater
The venue was named the Brooks Atkinson Theater in 1960. A legendary flop was The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore (revival, 1964) by Tennessee Williams, directed by Tony Richardson, with scenic and costume design by Rouben Ter-Arutunian, and with Tallulah Bankhead and Tab Hunter.

The most successful LGBT-associated productions at the Brooks Atkinson were:

 

Other productions by LGBT creators and with LGBT performers at the Brooks Atkinson included:

  • Night Life (1962), with Black singer Bobby Short
  • Man and Boy (1963) by Terence Rattigan
  • Josephine Baker and Her Company (1964), starring Josephine Baker
  • The Deputy (1964), with scenic design by Rouben Ter-Arutunian
  • The Glass Menagerie (revival, 1965) by Tennessee Williams, and with actor George Grizzard
  • Jimmy Shine (1968-69), with costume design by Lewis Brown
  • Indians (1969-70), with scenic design by Oliver Smith
  • Paris is Out (1970), with costume design by Florence Klotz
  • Find Your Way Home (1974), with scenic design by William Ritman
  • My Fat Friend (1974), with scenic design by William Ritman, and with actor George Rose
  • Tribute (1978), with scenic design by William Ritman and costume design by Lowell Detweiler
  • Teibele and Her Demon (1979-80), with scenic and costume design by Desmond Heeley
  • Beyond Therapy (1982) by Christopher Durang, and with actor David Hyde Pierce
  • Aren’t We All? (revival, 1985), with actors Claudette Colbert and George Rose
  • The Cemetery Club (1990), with scenic design by John Lee Beatty
  • Shadowlands (1990-91), with actor Nigel Hawthorne (Best Actor in a Play Tony Award)
  • Redwood Curtain (1993) by Lanford Wilson, directed by Marshall W. Mason, and with scenic design by John Lee Beatty
  • Play On! (1997), with actor André De Shields
  • The Iceman Cometh (1999), with scenic and costume design by Bob Crowley, and with actor Jeff Weiss
  • Uncle Vanya (revival, 2000), directed by Michael Mayer, and with actors Derek Jacobi and Roger Rees

 

The venue was renamed the Lena Horne Theater in 2022.

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

NOTE: Names above in bold indicate LGBT people.

Building Information

  • Architect or Builder: Herbert J. Krapp
  • Year Built: 1925-26

Sources

  1. “The 1st List of: Gay/Lesbian/Bi Industry People, Both in Front and Behind the Camera,” Internet Movie Database, May 31, 2013.

  2. 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, November 14, 2007.

  3. Brooks Atkinson Theater Designation Report (New York: Landmarks Preservation Commission, 1987).

  4. Internet Broadway Database.

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