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.

Header Photo
Credit: Sarah Sargent/NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, 2019.

History

Mansfield Theater
LGBT-associated plays at the Mansfield Theater included The Ladder (1926-28) with Ross Alexander; the successful The Green Pastures (1930-31), with an all-Black cast and Hall Johnson as musical director, with the Hall Johnson Choir; Present Arms (1928) and Chee-Chee (1928), with lyrics by Lorenz HartThe Cradle Will Rock (revival, 1947-48) by Marc Blitzstein, and with Will Geer; and 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
It was named the Brooks Atkinson Theater in 1960. Its most successful LGBT-associated productions were  The Deputy (1964), with Emlyn Williams and James Mitchell; Lenny (1971-72), directed by Tom O’Horgan (Outstanding Director Drama Desk Award), with future LGBT rights icon Harvey Milk as his assistant; Same Time, Next Year (1975-78), with scenic design by William RitmanTalley’s Folly (1980) by Lanford Wilson (Pulitzer Prize for Drama), directed by Marshall W. Mason, with scenic design by John Lee Beatty (Best Scenic Design Tony Award); Noises Off (1983-85) with Victor Garber; and She Loves Me (revival, 1993-94), with Howard McGillin. 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.

Other productions by LGBT creators and with LGBT performers included Night Life (1962) with Black singer Bobby ShortMan and Boy (1963) by Terence Rattigan; Josephine Baker and Her Company (1964), starring Josephine Baker; The Deputy (1964), with scenic design by Rouben Ter-ArutunianThe Glass Menagerie (revival, 1965) by Tennessee Williams, with actor George GrizzardJimmy Shine (1968-69), with costume design by Lewis BrownIndians (1969-70), with scenic design by Oliver SmithParis is Out (1970), with costume design by Florence Klotz; Find Your Way Home (1974) and My Fat Friend (1974), with scenic design by William Ritman, the latter with actor George RoseTribute (1978), with scenic design by William Ritman, and costume design by Lowell DetweilerTeibele and Her Demon (1979-80), with scenic and costume design by Desmond HeeleyBeyond Therapy (1982) by Christopher Durang, with actor David Hyde PierceAren’t We All? (revival, 1985), with Claudette Colbert and George RoseThe Cemetery Club (1990), with scenic design by John Lee BeattyShadowlands (1990-91) with Nigel Hawthorne (Best Actor in a Play Tony Award); Redwood Curtain (1993) by Lanford Wilson, directed by Marshall W. Mason, with scenic design by John Lee BeattyPlay On! (1997), with André De ShieldsThe Iceman Cometh (1999), with scenic and costume design by Bob Crowley; and Uncle Vanya (revival, 2000), with Derek Jacobi and Roger Rees.

Building Information

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

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

  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.

Do you have more information about this site?

This project is enriched by your participation! Do you have your own images of this site? Or a story to share? Would you like to suggest a different historic site?

Curated Themes

43 Sites

Broadway Theater District

Other Sites in the Neighborhood

242-250 West 45th Street
Bernard B. Jacobs Theater (originally Royale Theater)
Performance Venues
1564-1566 Broadway
Palace Theater (interior)
Performance Venues
243-259 West 52nd Street
August Wilson Theater (originally Guild Theater)
Performance Venues