overview

Formed in 1980, WOW (Women’s One World) Café Theatre is considered one of the premiere centers for lesbian, women’s, and transgender theater in New York. It has performed in this building since 1984 (on a street known as the Fourth Arts Block), but was previously located in a storefront space at 330 East 11th Street from 1982 to 1984.

The fourth floor of the building was the home of Lower East Side Printshop from 1968 to 2005. The cooperative printmaking studio was devoted to offering printmaking resources to artists of color.

Header Photo
Credit: Christopher D. Brazee/NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, 2020.

History

WOW Café Theatre
The legendary WOW (Women’s One World) Café Theatre bills itself as the “oldest collectively-run performance space for women and/or trans artists in the known universe.” It started in October 1980 as an 11-day international women’s theater festival, with 36 shows from eight countries, “performed for hungry New York lesbians.” A year and a half later, the group found a space at 330 East 11th Street, where year round it featured performances by women and transgender people.

WOW has no Artistic Director nor any centralized control over the works that appear, and Producers have complete artistic liberty to produce anything they desire.

WOW Café, website

Around 1984, the theater moved to its current location at 59-61 East 4th Street. As one of the premiere centers for lesbian theater in New York, WOW has been associated with such artists as actor/writer/producer Peggy Shaw, director/playwright Lois Weaver, performance artist/playwright Deb Margolin, performance artist Holly Hughes, performance artist/playwright/comedian Carmelita Tropicana, and Lisa Kron and The Five Lesbian Brothers. Shaw and Weaver are also known for their performance work created under their Split Britches company label.

WOW is part of the Fourth Arts Block (FAB), a neighborhood non-profit established in 2001 that promotes ethnic and racial diversity, affordable programs, and training for up-and-coming artists. Just two of the several other cultural venues that form part of FAB are the New York Theatre Workshop and La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club.

Lower East Side Printshop
The Lower East Side Printshop was founded on the fourth floor of this building in 1968 and remained there until 2005. The cooperative printmaking studio was devoted to offering printmaking resources to artists of color. Chinese American artist Gin Louie began as an instructor there in the early 1970s and went to become its director from 1978 until 1989.

Entry by Jay Shockley, project director, with additional content by Ethan Brown, project consultant (March 2017; rev. August 2022).

NOTE: Names above in bold indicate LGBT people.

Building Information

  • Architect or Builder: Maxwell A. Cantor
  • Year Built: c. 1911

Sources

  1. Real Estate Record & Builders Guide, July 27, 1872, p. 36.

  2. WOW Café Theater, bit.ly/2gtYo1U.

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

12 Sites

Transgender History

21 Sites

Spotlight on the Theater

Other Sites in the Neighborhood

82 East 4th Street
Club 82
Bars, Clubs & Restaurants
4 St. Mark's Place
Tempo Playhouse / Key Theater / New Bowery Theater / Bridge Theater
Performance Venues
324 East 14th Street
Jackie Curtis Residence
Residences