overview

Opened in 1903, the Lyric Theater staged several productions involving major LGBT performers and creators, including Clyde Fitch, Cole Porter, and Sarah Bernhardt, among others, before becoming a movie theater in 1934 The historic interior was demolished in 1996, and, incorporating portions of the interiors of the adjacent Apollo and Times Square Theaters, it reopened as the Ford Center for the Performing Arts in 1998.

The Mattachine Society of New York, an early gay rights group, held its meetings at Avlon Studios in this building from 1956-57, shortly after forming in December 1955.

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

History

The Lyric Theater had several hits by gay playwrights and composers: The Blue Mouse (1908-09) and The City (1909-10) by Clyde FitchAbe and Mawruss (1915-16) by Montague Glass and Roi Cooper MegrueFifty Million Frenchmen (1929-30), directed by Monty Woolley, with music and lyrics by Cole Porter; and Run, Little Chillun (1933), written and with music by Hall Johnson, and with actress Edna Thomas; Ourselves (1913) by Rachel Crothers was also performed here.

LGBT performers at the Lyric included Sarah Bernhardt (1906), Harrison Ford in Glorious Betsy (1908), Laurette Taylor in The Great John Ganton (1909), and Edward Everett Horton in The Cheater (1910).

In 1934 legitimate theater ended here and it became a movie theater. The historic theater interior was demolished in 1996. Incorporating portions of the interiors of the adjacent Apollo Theater and Times Square Theater, it reopened as the Ford Center for the Performing Arts in 1998. The first production was the hit Ragtime (1998-2000), by Terrence McNally (Best Book of a Musical Tony Award), and with music by Stephen Flaherty (Best Original Musical Score Tony Award). The theater had several name changes: Hilton Theater in 2005, Foxwoods Theater in 2010, and a return to the Lyric Theater in 2014.

The Mattachine Society of New York was founded in the apartment of Sam Morford at 16 East 8th Street in Greenwich Village in December 1955 with five members, and had its first general meeting at the Diplomat Hotel (demolished) in January 1956. Monthly meetings were then held at Avlon Studios in this theater building until 1957.

Building Information

  • Architect or Builder: Victor H. Koehler
  • Year Built: 1903

Sources

  1. Internet Broadway Database.

  2. Mattachine Society, “New York Chapter,” Mattachine Review, May 1956, 8-9.

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