Cherry Lane Theatre Sold to Lucille Lortel Theatre Foundation

The sale price is $11 million.  Under the leadership of Executive Director George Forbes, the new owners expect a seamless transition.

By: Jul. 19, 2021
Cherry Lane Theatre Sold to Lucille Lortel Theatre Foundation

Cherry Lane Theatre, the oldest continuously running Off-Broadway theatre in New York City, has a new owner, it has been announced by Angelina Fiordellisi, the theatre's Executive Director since having acquired the building in 1996. Cherry Lane is located at 38 Commerce Street in Greenwich Village.

The Lucille Lortel Theatre Foundation has purchased the Cherry Lane Theatre, which is located a few blocks from the company's longtime home on Christopher Street. The sale price is $11 million. Under the leadership of Executive Director George Forbes, the new owners expect a seamless transition.

Ms. Fiordellisi purchased Cherry Lane Theatre in 1996 and oversaw a $3 million renovation of its 179-seat Mainstage and converted a former storage space into the 60-seat Studio Theatre, along with having modernized the lobby and public spaces. With its comfort and understated elegance, Cherry Lane has become widely-known, rightfully, as the Jewel of Off-Broadway.

Under Ms. Fiordellisi's leadership, Cherry Lane has served a wide variety of artistic interests in its Mainstage productions and with its award-winning Mentor Project, which for 20 years has paired emerging writers with established playwrights in the development, rehearsal and fully-staged production of their work.

Writers who have been mentored at Cherry Lane include Katori Hall, Sheila Callaghan, Rajiv Joseph, Anne Washburn, Jocelyn Bioh, Nathan Yungerberg, Ren Dara Santiago, Jiehae Park and Antoinette Nwandu, whose play PASS OVER, soon to open on Broadway, was produced by Mentor Project in 2016. Mentors have included Lynn Nottage, Taylor Mac, Craig Lucas, Lucy Thurber, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Stephen Adly Guirgis, Kwame Kwei Armah and Diana Oh.

In a statement, Ms. Fiordellisi says, "I am so thankful to all of the beloved artists and patrons for the extraordinary privilege, challenges, triumphs and inspirations they have given me over 25 year of service at Cherry Lane. It has been a great run. To stand on the stage where so many of our greatest artists, crews and theatre providers have stood is to know what theatre history really feels like. I wish every success to my friend and colleague George Forbes and the estimable Lucille Lortel Theatre Foundation as they continue the important work of serving artists and audiences in New York."

Mr. Forbes adds, "The Lucille Lortel Theatre Foundation expresses our extreme gratitude to Angelina Fiordellisi for her stewardship of the Cherry Lane Theatre. Through her long standing tenure and leadership, she has helped to propel the work of countless artists and has made the venue a staple of New York City's cultural life. It has been our great privilege to serve as the managing agent of the theatre under Ms. Fiordellisi's leadership for the past ten years. The Foundation is excited to expand its footprint and preserve another historic Off-Broadway theatre in Greenwich Village. With the addition of two new stages, we look forward to announcing several new programs shortly, serving more artists, companies and audiences."

Notable productions during Ms. Fiordellisi's tenure include Horton Foote's TRAVELING LADY, Chuck Mee's FIRST LOVE, Joy Behar's ME, MY MOUTH AND I, TO THE BONE by Lisa Ramirez, ONE NIGHT by Charles Fuller, Rajiv Joseph's HUCK AND HOLDEN, THE REVISIONIST by Jesse Eisenberg, the musical NUNSENSE, Edward Albee's THE AMERICAN DREAM and THE SANDBOX, Amiri Baraka's DUTCHMAN, Katori Hall's HOODOO LOVE and OPEN HEART by Robby Benson.

Cherry Lane Theatre has undergone a storied metamorphosis since it was built as a farm silo in 1817, and later served as a brewery, tobacco warehouse and box factory. The barn was transformed into a theatre by vaudevillian actress Evelyn Vaughn and colleagues including Edna St. Vincent Millay in 1923, and over the past 98 years, Cherry Lane has presented plays by some of the theatre's most iconoclastic writers: Sean O'Casey, Clifford Odets, Gertrude Stein, William Saroyan, Eugene O'Neill and Tennessee Williams.

Plays by Edward Albee were frequently produced on the Cherry Lane Stage - along with his contemporaries Lanford Wilson, Terrence McNally, Lorraine Hansberry, Amiri Baraka, Sam Shepard, and Samuel Beckett, whose HAPPY DAYS had its world premiere there in 1961. A frequent patron at Cherry Lane, Mr. Albee was a Founding Mentor when Ms. Fiordellisi and Susann Brinkley created Mentor Project 20 years ago. Other Founding Mentors were Tony Kushner, Wendy Wasserstein, Charles Fuller, A.R. Gurney and Michael Weller.

Under Ms. Fiordellisi's continued direction, the non-profit Cherry Lane Alternative expects to resume a scaled-down Mentor Project (likely one production per season, instead of three) in the building's Studio Theatre. A series of Master Classes with leading theatrical figures have been converted into podcasts and are available to the public.

Earlier this month, Cherry Lane Theatre became the first major Off-Broadway theatre to open to full capacity post-lockdown with its hit production of Jacqueline Novak's GET ON YOUR KNEES, currently running through July 31.

Photo credit: Mary Geerlof