Cherry Lane Theatre to Restructure in 2011; Cryer, Hwang et al. to lead 'Mentor Project'


Angelina Fiordellisi, Artistic Director of the award-winning CHERRY
LANE THEATRE (38 Commerce St.) in Manhattan, has announced that the Off-Broadway theater will undergo a restructuring in the upcoming fiscal year 2011.

Cherry Lane Alternative -- the resident theater company established by Ms. Fiordellisi in 1997 -- will continue to produce the celebrated Mentor Project next year at Cherry Lane's 60-seat Studio Theatre, but will not produce works on the theater's 179-seat mainstage, as it typically does twice each season.

As well, Cherry Lane Alternative - which has operated under the more established name Cherry Lane Theatre since 2002 - will no longer serve as rental and managing agent for the theatre's two stages to other theater companies and commercial productions, relinquishing those responsibilities to the newly-established Cherry Lane Theatre Company.

One of the factors precipitating the decision to restructure is a deficit of $167,000, Ms. Fiordellisi states. She adds that the financial picture is complicated by the industry-wide decrease in government funding, foundation grants, rental income and ticket sales.

Ms Fiordellisi says, "The numbers don't lie. It's imperative that we be fiscally responsible. At Cherry Lane our focus on the creative process distracts us from the business side, and the demands of
maintaining a traditional Off-Broadway theatre have changed to the extent that we just can't keep up. It's time for us to stop and take a breath and explore our options. Strength, a disciplined approach and perseverance will help us overcome these obstacles. I am thrilled that the Mentor Project, which is my 'passion child,' will continue at Cherry Lane, perpetuating the theater's rich history of launching new voices for the American theatre."

Indeed, Cherry Lane Alternative will present the 13th annual MENTOR PROJECT in early 2011 at the Studio Theatre, with the celebrated playwrights Gretchen Cryer, David Henry Hwang and Jean-Claude van Itallie scheduled to serve as Mentors for three emerging writers, yet to be announced.

The Mentor Project each year pairs aspiring writers one-on-one with master dramatists in writing, workshops, rehearsals, production and performance over the course of the theatre season. The Mentor Project has become an important national launching pad for new writers and their work: previous Mentor Project playwrights whose work has been produced subsequent to their tenure at Cherry Lane include Rajiv Joseph, "Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo" (Center Theater Group); David Adjmi, "Stunning" (Lincoln Center Theater 3); Katori Hall, "The Mountaintop" (London's Battersea, West End); Jakob Holder, "Bedtime Solos" (Old Red Lion Theater, England); Colin McKenna, "The Secret Agenda of Trees" (Wild Project, NYC); Allison Moore, "Slasher" (Humana Festival); Christopher Shinn and Sam Forman.

During the 2009-10 season on its mainstage, Cherry Lane Theatre presented the New York premiere of the solo play THE LADY WITH ALL THE ANSWERS starring Judith Ivey, followed by the 25th anniversary revival of the hit musical NUNSENSE. In recent seasons, Cherry Lane produced revivals of THE AMERICAN DREAM and THE SANDBOX, by Edward Albee, who also directed; DUTCHMAN by Amiri Baraka; HOODOO LOVE by Katori Hall; and SLAG HEAP by Anton Dudley.

Cherry Lane Theatre is known as "the birthplace of Off-Broadway," having helped to define American drama by fostering theater that is daring and relevant for the past 86 years. The roster of iconoclastic writers whose work has been at home at The Cherry Lane since the 1920s includes O'Neill, Saroyan, Auden, Albee, Odets, Orton, Mamet, and Lanford Wilson. Such distinctive actors as Ruby Dee, James Earl Jones, Colleen Dewhurst, Cicely Tyson, Frank Langella, Tyne Daly, Estelle Parsons, Dennis Quaid and Judith Ivey have performed on its stage.

Ms. Fiordellisi purchased the Cherry Lane Theatre in 1996 and established the resident theatre company there the following year, marking the first time in decades that "homegrown work" was being developed and produced at the theater. She also undertook a major renovation of the building (once part of a farm in 19th century New York) and its stages, including the creation of the 60-seat Studio Theatre and the celebrated Cherry Lane Mentor Project in 1998.

Other programs created at Cherry Lane Theatre in the past 14 years include a Heritage Series, Master Class series and Solo Fest.

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Photo Credit: Walter McBride/Retna Ltd.

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