American Theatre Companies, 1888-1930

By Weldon B. Durham | Go to book overview
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N

NAYE TEATER.See JEWISH ART THEATRE.

NEIGHBORHOOD PLAYHOUSE ACTING COMPANY. The Neighborhood Playhouse Acting Company ( New York, New York) was organized in 1912 as an amateur group in conjunction with the Henry Street Settlement House and first presented plays in Clinton Hall. The founders of the company, Alice and Irene Lewisohn, were daughters of a wealthy New York family that had long been identified with philanthropic interests; they came to this lower east side settlement house as volunteer directors for the youth club. Festival dances and plays were annually staged by the youth club and these representations of the ethnic richness of lower Manhattan were fundamental to the type of repertory that the Playhouse later produced, ranging from Hindu ( The Little Clay Cart) and Buddhist ( Tamura) drama to Irish ( A Night at an Inn) and Jewish ( The Dybbuk) folk plays and from a French medieval play ( Guibour) to a British social drama ( The Madras House). In February 1915, the Playhouse, a well- designed physical plant, opened at 466 Grand Street. The Playhouse seated 300 in the orchestra and 99 in the balcony and the stage occupied one-third of the auditorium space. There was no fly gallery but there was a plaster dome. The third floor contained rehearsal and class rooms as well as dressing rooms. In 1917 the workshop was moved to Pitt Street to a building which also contained a coffee house, the Traktir, operated by the Playhouse. Art exhibitions were often held in the Traktir.

Plays were staged in the Playhouse on weekends, and motion pictures were shown on weeknights. The Lewisohn sisters were concerned with providing a place for the neighborhood to see films in a dignified and comfortable setting in contrast to the area nickelodeons. This pattern of weekday film showings and weekend plays and festival dances continued until 1920 when a permanent acting company was established at the Playhouse; the screening of motion pictures was

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