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The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project Announces 'Broadway Theater District' Theme

The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project has announced the digital publication of its new curated theme, "Broadway Theater District." This new collection of over 40 sites celebrates the many LGBT individuals who have contributed their talents to New York City's theater history -- whether as a star with name in flashing lights on the marquee, or a member of the chorus line.

"As performers, directors, choreographers, scenic and costume designers, librettists, playwrights and more, LGBT individuals have made a significant, and disproportionate, impact on the Broadway stage," said Jay Shockley, co-director of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project. "Our new curated theme celebrates major figures and history-making productions over a century (1900-2000) of theater history. Certainly there are more that we could - and will continue - to add."

New York City has long been considered the leading American center for arts and culture, and the arts-especially theater-constitute one of New York's primary economic forces. Throughout the 20th century, the LGBT community has comprised a major group of those whose work has defined Broadway-even as the New York Legislature-enacted Wales Padlock Law (1927-1967) made it illegal for theaters to show plays that featured gay and lesbian characters (though some productions managed to get around this restriction).

This curated collection spotlights 42 surviving historic theaters on and around Broadway, from 41st to 54th Streets, with associations with major LGBT performers and creators. Research for this new theme has been supported, in part, by a grant from the Manhattan Community Awards Program, facilitated by the Office of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

Historic sites featured in the new "Broadway Theater District" include:

  • SHUBERT THEATER, where the Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical A Chorus Line (1975-90) had its Broadway premiere (directed and choreographed by Michael Bennett).
  • Walter Kerr THEATER (originally Ritz Theater), the venue for the highly significant two-part, LGBT-themed play by Tony Kushner, Angels in America (1993-94, revived in 2018 starring Andrew Garfield and Nathan Lane).
  • WINTER GARDEN THEATER, where West Side Story premiered in 1957 featuring a creative team in which all of the major members were gay, lesbian or bisexual (Jerome Robbins, director and choreographer; Leonard Bernstein, composer; Arthur Laurents, librettist; Stephen Sondheim, lyricist; Oliver Smith, scenic designer; Irene Sharaff, costume designer; Jean Rosenthal, lighting designer; Larry Kert, male lead).
  • Helen Hayes THEATER (formerly the Little Theater), where in the late 1970s and early 1980s, two pioneering plays with gay themes were staged: Albert Innaurato's Gemini (1977) and Harvey Fierstein's Torch Song Trilogy (1982, recently revived as Torch Song, starring Michael Urie).
  • Ethel Barrymore THEATER, where lesbian playwright Lorraine Hansberry's groundbreaking A Raisin in the Sun premiered (it was the first work on Broadway by an African-American woman).
  • BELASCO THEATER (originally Stuyvesant Theater), where the lesbian drama Trio was the last Broadway show impacted by the Wales Padlock Law, passed in 1927 to forbid the depiction of "sex perversion" onstage, including gay or lesbian characters.

The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project Announces 'Broadway Theater District' Theme

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