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 New York Area Council of the Mattachine Society, Inc., an early gay rights group, held its meetings at Avlon Studios in this building from 1956 to 1957, shortly after forming in December 1955.

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

History

The Lyric Theater opened in 1903. An early LGBT-associated play here was Ourselves (1913) by Rachel Crothers.

The Lyric also had several hits by gay playwrights and composers:

  • The Blue Mouse (1908-09) by Clyde Fitch
  • The City (1909-10) by Clyde Fitch
  • Abe and Mawruss (1915-16) by Montague Glass and Roi Cooper Megrue
  • Fifty Million Frenchmen (1929-30), directed by Monty Woolley, with music and lyrics by Cole Porter
  • Run, Little Chillun (1933), a folk opera with an all-Black cast, is considered one of the most successful musicals of the Harlem Renaissance. It was written by, and the music was composed, by Hall Johnson, who was also the choral director. The cast included actress Edna Thomas and Bruce Nugent as a dancer.

 

LGBT performers at the Lyric included:

 

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.

Mattachine Society
The New York Area Council of the Mattachine Society, Inc. 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, a dance studio, in this theater building until June 1957.

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

NOTE: Names above in bold indicate LGBT people.

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.

    1. Peter Marks, “Turning Two Historic Theaters Into One Big One,” The New York Times, January 17, 1996, C11.

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

240 West 38th Street
Isaia NYC Fashion House
Stores & Businesses
249 West 45th Street
Imperial Theater
Performance Venues
11 West 53rd Street
Museum of Modern Art
Cultural & Educational Institutions